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Published On: Mon, Feb 19th, 2018

Drug abuse is on increase among youths

 Frustrated and humbled by increasing difficult economic conditions, pervasive social anomie, breakdown of age-old value system and discipline, most youths now find solace in drug abuse, writes Adebayo Obajemu

 Fadairo [not real name] is 24, at that age, his physical appearance is that of a man in his thirties, slurred and incoherent speech, hanging jaw, emaciated body and deep socket. He says he is a lover of “African Cocktail”. His colleagues at the bus stop where he hangs out as small time crook and conductor convinced him that cigarette smoking can kill, so they introduce him to a more ‘harmless’ drug, which is codeine mixed with Fanta. He says, he has regained his manliness, but Dr. Samson Akinpelu says characters like Fadairo, if not checked will soon die before their time.

But that is another world far removed from the ‘’high society’’ of Ahmed [not real name], a civil servant in one of the ministries in Lagos. At 40, he has no time for small stuff, so he says, referring to codeine mixed with Fanta, he goes for the real thing – cocaine. He prefers cocaine to a blend cough syrup and soda. He even peddles the drug secretly to other addicts. But whenever, he runs out of stock, he goes for Coca cola mixed with codeine.

Little surprise that he has started to exhibit signs such as slurred and incoherent speech, unhealthy appearance, blood-shot eyes, dilated pupils and indifference to hygiene and grooming among other signs that betray his addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse United states of America (NIDA) explains that “the excessive use of drugs can alter important brain areas that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug abuse that marks addiction’’

Ahmed’s wife, Fatimah had deserted him three years ago, when against all pleas and entreaties from her to be responsible and serious with his life, he refused to mend his way.

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‘’She used to advise me to change, but I could not, if I did I would fall sick. The thing I regret was that I could not take care of her because my salary goes into servicing my addiction’’, he told this newspaper.  According to Dr. Olufemi Omoyele, a consultant, ‘’when an addict is hooked, it will require adequate therapy and counseling to let go off the habit.’’

Studies have shown that use of prescription drugs is a serious problem with teenagers and young adults. According to a National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) study, a teenage is more likely to have abused a prescription drug more than an illegal street drug.

Drugs commonly abused
Medically, Codeine is a drug normally used in the management of pain and diarrhea; published reports show that it is widely abused because of its potential to produce euphoria (high mood) when consumed in excess. Hence, codeine abusers consume large quantities of cough syrup containing codeine, which leads to adverse effects like dependence, tolerance, sedation and euphoria. Other adverse effects may include constipation, dizziness, vomiting, headaches and dry mouth, the reports say.

Other pain relievers, which are also sometimes abused, include morphine, pentazocine (for twin), tramadol and pethidine. NDLEA listed drugs commonly abused in Nigeria such as marijuana, depressants, dissociative anesthetics, hallucinogens and stimulants.

This includes paracetamol, a household name that comes in different popular brand names such as Panadol, Boska and M&B. Due to its analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory properties, paracetamol are widely used – and frequently abused – for the treatment of fever and ache. Although relatively safe, especially when compared with other painkillers, if consumed in excess, it brings adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and rashes. Therefore, patients are usually advised to consult the doctor if symptoms persist.

Another commonly abused drug is Aspirin. Aspirin belongs to the group of drugs called Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are often used in the treatment of migraine, menstrual pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other causes of pain. The brands include Alabukun and Phensic and others. The most common adverse effect of aspirin is peptic ulcer.

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Antibiotics such as tetracycline, Flagyl and Cyprotap are equally widespread abuse in Nigeria. Taken in excess, it could cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, dizziness and rashes among others. Flagyl in particular has been linked with adverse effects like loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, seizures, tremors and slurred speech.

Sedatives/Hypnotics refer to drugs commonly used in the treatment of sleep and anxiety disorders. Some of the common examples are Valium, Lexotan etcetera. A prolonged use of these medications could cause respiratory depression, confusion, tolerance, dependence, visual disturbances, reduced libido (sexual drive) and headache. Interestingly, most Nigerian youths seem unaware of the danger of abusing drug.

According to pharmacist Adeyemi Kolapo, most of these drugs are purchased through people not licensed to sell. ‘’ You know money is the factor, most of these abused drugs are purchased through underground channels, that is the challenge.’’

Dr. Samson Akinpelu , an alternative medicine expert says drug abuse is’’  a substance use disorder characterized by the use of a mood or behavior-altering substance in a maladaptive pattern resulting in significant impairment or distress, such as failure to fulfill social or occupational obligations or recurrent use in situations in which it is physically dangerous to do so or which end in legal problems, but without fulfilling the criteria for substance dependence.

Specific disorders are named for their etiology, such as alcohol abuse and anabolic steroid abuse. DSM-IV includes specific abuse disorders for alcohol, amphetamines or

similar substances, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioids, PCP or similar substances, and sedatives, hypnotic oranxiolytics.


Danger of abusing drugs
A study that examined the perception of drug abuse amongst Nigerian undergraduates living off-campus shows that most students have limited knowledge of abusing drugs, except for the use of marijuana. Meanwhile, a consultant psychiatrist of the Department of Psychiatry Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi Araba Lagos, Dr Campbell Elizabeth Adebola, said all drugs do damage to the body, including codeine, alcohol and tramadol if they are abused.

“I have treated patients who have abused Tramadol, a pain killer of high dose of 250mg.” The doctor wonders where drug abusers get this high dose of drugs from when only hospitals are allowed to give them to patients.

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