Nigeria has a new, dangerous drug problem as cheap drugs, like codeine and morphine, threaten the country’s youth. BattaBox Presenter, Warri Pikin hits the streets of Lagos to find out.
“The reason I take codeine is because of the inspiration I take from it – I’m an artist, I get inspiration for my music, I go on a trip and feel on cloud nine,” explains a young Nigerian drug abuser.
Codeine is often found in cough medicine from local pharmacies, and they drug users then mix it with coke or other soda drinks for sweetness, called “Purple Drank” in American slang. The sweet taste allows the abuser to drink more.
Codeine (otherwise known as “Blunts” on the streets of Lagos), morphine, and Refnol belong to a class of drugs called Opiods, which are traditionally used to manage pain, but the drugs also have serious addictive qualties and are used by young men on the streets of Lagos to get high. In fact, codeine has been classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a “high potential for abuse.”
“I prefer codeine and smoking, I like to be on my own, it makes me feel calm,” says one young Nigerian man, who does not give his name.
“The way Nigeria is now, people don’t like drinking beer, because if you drink too much alcohol, you will end up in the gutter. But with codeine, anywhere you take it, you will get to your house,” explains one Nigerian youth who takes codeine.
The short-term effects include euphoria and altered consciousness, but long-term abuse can result in seizures, organ damage, and even death.
And Nigeria has a devastating problem with codeine sweeping the country. Nigeria’s Senate recently announced an addiction epidemic across the north, with an estimated 3 million bottles of codeine consumed across daily in major cities. In particular, girls in school, women displaced by Boko Haram, or just working women have become addicts, consuming up to ten bottles of cough syrup a day.
According to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, 2015 annual report – Nigeria’s North west had the most arrests for drug related offences. A total of 2,205 persons were arrested in the North West, and 1,785 arrests recorded in the South West where we put together our report for BattaBox.
Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, announced on Twitter:
“I am particularly worried about the drug menace in the Northern part of the country. It is the time that we recognize this problem and address it in a sensible manner. I will be pushing for the National Assembly to review all relevant laws on drug abuse. This will help to curb the widespread misuse of illegal and unsanitary substances. The Senate will engage with all relevant stakeholders as we initiate this process.”
It is a problem that has reached even into Nigeria’s entertainment industry, with Nollywood actresses such as Toyin Aimakhu admitting to drug abuse.
“I was losing touch with things that used to work for me because I was involved with negative habits like drugs, smoking, codeine. Codeine is very bad, it’s very bad. All these things were empowering my negative energy,” Toyin Aimakhu, star of “Love is in the Hair”, admitted.
Nigeria is often regarded as a transit point for drugs into Europe and America, but increasingly has a domestic drug problem. The country’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) makes regular arrests and drug seizures – waging a war on drugs, but the battle is far from over, and now spilling into the streets.
“I started taking drugs in Nigeria when something went down between me and my old man,” explains the Lagos youth. “A friend of mine was taking codeine and I asked to have a taste.”
The problem for Nigeria’s Drug authorities is that the pharmaceuticals are not illegal. And no one at the “Ghetto Republic 1759” is worried about being arrested:
“We buy it at the pharmacy, and on the condition of Nigeria like this, nobody asks why you buy it,” says the young Lagos guy. “We never have any issues with any police.”
What do you think about the drugs problem in Nigeria? Gist us in the comments below.