The War of a Generation – The Nigerian Codeine Story

Codeine, just like tramadol and glue, are the cocaine, crystal meth and heroin of the poor and middle class, with stories of their effects reaching near-mythical proportions. Between January and December 2015, 1044 patients entered for treatment in Nigeria in the 11 treatment centres currently part of the Nigerian Epidemiological Network on Drug Use (NENDU) reporting system.


The drug declared the most frequently used by the patients entering treatment are cannabis (36.2%), followed by opiates (28.3%) and alcohol (17.1%). The opiates referred to are mainly prescription medicines: tramadol (71% of opiates specified as first most frequently used substance), codeine (15.1%) and pentazocine (9.9%). This shows the degree to which these medications are being abused and the potential health crisis brewing.”

We hear of cases where young people are being chained to trees and subjected to other inhumane conditions in a bid to wean them off these addictions. People are losing their livelihoods and even lives as a result of this addiction; a cultural shift is happening, and a generation will quickly spiral downwards if this scourge is not quickly contained. Indeed, if this is not dealt with quickly from every cadre of the society – families, government, religious institutions and big business – we might end up having an opioid crisis of our own in unprecedented proportions.

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