Before the advent of orthodox medicine, our fathers were adept in the use of roots and herbs in the treatment of all manners of illnesses that afflicted them.
With the advent of modern medicine, drugs which were made from natural substances started to fade out and replaced with chemical elements.
Majority of the drugs we consume these days were made from chemicals which if used without control would lead to serious addiction.
No one would say the government has not been waging a highly successful war against drug abuse, especially the hard ones which include narcotics, but what about the abuse of drugs that are meant to perform certain healing functions.
This is the war that the government is not winning and this is the silent war that is killing off a young and vibrant generation of Nigerians. The government must act now before it gets too late.
Recently, the British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC] News Africa documentary titled: “Sweet Sweet Codeine exposed a whole lot of what is happening in the underground distribution of everyday Biolin and Codeine based cough syrup.
To the ordinary Nigerian, we just use this drug whenever the need arises and afterwards, discard the remnant and go about our normal lives but to some, it is a source of ‘getting high’ and being ‘on top’ of the world.
Among the category of these drugs that have been so abused is the painkiller Tramadol, which ordinarily is supposed to be administered under controlled situation but which is often abused by Nigerians mostly of the northern extraction who engage in manual labour works. Reason for this is to boost their depleted energy after a hard day’s manual labour job.
Funny enough, our everyday paracetamol tablet is the most abused Over-The-Counter [OTC] drug in Nigeria. I have seen cases of people who take this drug every day before sleeping with the excuse that it will replenish their spent energy and also of friends who instead of taking two  tablets would rather take three .
Their excuse is that the two  tablets does not function effectively in their system. Talk of drug abuse being perpetuated ignorantly.
Back to the BBC documentary, before viewing the clip, the social media had been buzzing with different headline of how the Federal Government has stopped the production of Codeine-based cough syrups and the documentary which not even on a Nigerian television channel but a Ghanaian network channel exposed the shady underground business of a hitherto harmless drug used on children in the management of cough.
Of particular interest was the fact that, this problem was centered around a particular geographical zone of the country, the Northwest comprising of both Kano and Jigawa states.
It didn’t matter the religion or ethnic colouration to it. The drugs were majorly manufactured in Lagos and Ilorin in Kwara State and being shipped to these Northern states for onward consumption.
The opening line of the documentary was particularly catchy. Young Nigerians being chained to the ground like madmen with flies buzzing around them which meant they must have defecated and urinated on themselves.
These drugs are not made to be sold without the prescription of a medical doctor from a hospital or if to be purchased in a pharmaceutical store, it must be with the signature of a Pharmacist.
Notwithstanding these laws, in the every thriving underground business of illegal drug peddling, these drugs are bought in huge quantities with the connivance of these pharmacists and sales representatives of these pharmaceutical companies.
Addicted youths pour out these codeine based syrups into cups, some even add cubed iced blocks to it and drink all in one fell swoop. In most cases, these youths hold gigs where nothing else would be served as refreshment other than cough syrups and I just stop to wonder, cough syrup?
I take this cough syrup whenever I have serious cough and atimes one of the side effects is that it makes me to sleep, especially Benylin. After doing a bit of research, I learnt that the sleep effect that I experienced was a result of the base ingredient: codeine and biolin and in unusually high doses, I may end up behaving out of control.
The result is that like any other drugs that if misused, it can lead to terrible and devastating side effects, they start behaving erratically until the codeine leaves the body system. The withdrawal symptoms could equally be dangerous as these addicts are a danger to themselves and any other person within their surroundings.
This type of war would be a very difficult one to win. The reason is that we still have a culture of doing things with impunity. This is a country where some youths gather up a cocktail of drugs and swallow them all. This is a country where people go to pharmaceutical outlets and purchase drugs without a doctor’s prescription and without a pharmacists approving of such a purchase. This is a country where a visit to most motor parks, mechanic garages, traditional festival venues and so on, will show peddlers selling drugs of different types and shades.
This is a country where drug peddlers openly sell their drugs in vehicles and unsuspecting buyers purchase same and use, based on the advice of these peddlers who don’t even know the basics about those drugs and how the body would react to it.
With the ban on the further production and consumption of codeine based cough syrups, in line with the Federal Minister of Health directive, this fight is a broad one and should involve all the stakeholders, including the National Agency for Foods Drugs Administration and Control [NAFDAC], National Drug Law Enforcement Agency [NDLEA], Standard Organization of Nigeria [SON], Nigerian Medical Association[NMA], Pharmacists Council of Nigeria [PCN], Nigerian Union of Journalists [NUJ], Nigerian Bar Association [NBA], Nigerian Police, Christian Association of Nigeria [CAN], Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria and a host of others.