Combating Nigeria’s rising drug problem

Nigeria has a rising drug problem and we can no longer afford to sit still and do nothing about it.

In recent times, we’ve experienced astronomical increase of opioid use among Nigerian youths. Three experiences have brought this reality closer home.

Osahon was my former colleague. He always had a bottle of coke on his desk and I kept teasing him about his coke addiction not knowing it was laced with tramadol.  Tolu and Uche were corps members in Enugu. On their Passing out parade day, they came to a pharmacy shop beside Polo park mall and bought over 10 bottles of cough syrup. I had come to purchase ear drops. I imagined the dispenser would question them or at least ask for doctors’ prescription, but no, he was all too happy to make his sales! John was a local tax collector at a park in Slaughter market, Port Harcourt. One evening a fight broke out between him and some drivers. With the heavy influence of tramadol, he began to have tremors. His friends did a cold compress and carried him away to a clinic.

These stories are just a few compared to everyday experiences people have with drug use and users; with the addiction most common in youths between 18-20 years old, several of whom are on a combination of substances.

Drug dependency is an adaptive state that develops from repeated drug administration and which results in withdrawal upon cessation of drug use while drug addiction is defined as compulsive, out-of-control drug use despite negative consequence (Source: Wikipedia). According to Dorcas Oluremi Fareo*, abused drugs are categorized as follows: stimulants, hallucinogens, narcotics, tranquilizers, sedatives and inhalants.

The most commonly abused drugs and substance are opiate based painkillers such as tramadol, rohypnol, Exol and Benzodiazephines, and Cough syrups like benylin and codeine. Others include Shisha, heroin, cocaine, crack, cannabis, alcohol and tobacco. There is also the practice of inhaling methamphetamine, glue, nail polish, perfumes, gutters & refuse dump. It is estimated that over 500,000 bottles of codeine are being consumed everyday by over 40% of the population on one form of substance abuse or the other.


The days of looking at drug offenders as dirty touts on the streets are now over. A great percentage of the offenders are professionals: bankers, doctors, Engineers, just about anyone. Because people have mastered the art of covering their tracks, parents are unaware when their children and wards become drug users. Fancy private schools do not provide a shield while government schools have become major trafficking centres. Teenagers even hail themselves as “science students” following the words of Olamide (popular Nigerian hip-hop artist)- “Science” meaning the ability to combine several of the drugs mentioned above.  

In looking for solutions, NAFDAC becomes the first port of call. There is the need to regulate and, in some cases, ban the importation of such drugs legally into the country. Drugs such as tramadol is so common that every aboki on the street sells them. NAFDAC must rise to its primary role of drug administration and control. Forget about press releases and work the talk, Nigerians will see results for themselves.

The Nigerian Custom service also has a great role to play in the fight against drug importation and circulation.  By plugging supply channels, the circulation channels can be reduced. The national drug policy recently launched did not address this menace. Hence the ministry of health should as a matter of all urgency have a review of the policy to include issues bothering on drug use, dependency and addiction.

We must begin to look at sustainable solutions rather than criminalizing drug users. I visited a prison recently where I learnt that most of the juvenile cases were drug and petty theft related. Several persons will agree with me that the prison is no place for drug addicts. I would rather they are committed to rehabilitation centres built across the country. Also, if a prison term is inevitable then segregation of prisons based on offences should be adopted instead of lumping everyone together. Our prisons do not have the facility to carter for such rehabilitation process.

Finally, I’ll address the parents (family).  Never hold brief for your child and say “I know Junior, he’ll never do a thing like that” Always be on the look out for behavioural changes in your children. Some red flags could be mood swings, aggression, withdrawal to oneself, insomnia, loss of appetite, depression, weight loss and tremors. Also look out for slow motor coordination, lethargy, poor performance in school and hypersensitivity. These drugs are often colourless so you may not detect them. But when you see your child or ward always carrying bottles of water, lacasera or coke around, you may want to probe further to know the real content of those bottles. Don’t live in denial, seek help as soon as possible.

Consequently, the government through the ministry of health must seek to build more rehabilitation centres to accommodate the coming tsunami if nothing is done to stop these youths.


Photo by on Unsplash

Chizzy Odilinye

Chizzy Odilinye is a chemical engineer who is driven to challenge status quo and add value everywhere she goes. Her pleasures are photography, chess and cooking.

21 thoughts on “Combating Nigeria’s rising drug problem

  1. This is a pressing issue in the society. We will keep doing our bit in the society but the government must arise to its duties as you have highlighted.
    I shared on my Facebook wall sometime ago thw encounter I had with one.
    The family and church have their own roles to play.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for sharing.
      It’s indeed very important for the church and family to pay more attention to their wards

  2. Thanks for flagging this rising social anomaly among our youths and young adults.
    It calls for urgent measures to forestall the cataclysmic pogrom of our younger generation.
    To eliminate this quagmire, we must each watch out for the young and vulnerable in our society.

  3. Really my dear, you did a great job describing how bad drug abuse has eaten deep into our society without exception. We all must rise to the challenge and God will help us. Well done Strawberry!

    1. Thank you Chinelo.
      I admire the work you do at NDLEA CDs.

      I hope you will share your findings someday with us.

  4. My hubby was even the one that told me he’s noticing increase in substance abuse by young people, I told him am yet to notice oo, now this!!!!

    This calls for very serious concern o. Hmmm
    There’s work for everyone o; family, church, school, etc
    NDLE should also increase their surveillance especially in uncompleted buildings

    1. NDLEA alone cannot do the work. Imagine the land mass and population in comparison to their workforce and poor funding.

  5. It’s high time we put everything, “especially those little things”, under consideration.

    You have made a good point and this creates much awareness for the reader.

    Drugs are taken anyhow because almost everyone claims knowledgeable in all areas.

    I hope this well thought-through piece of yours will help to improve our attitude towards drug use and as well lead to taking corrective actions on drug administration.

    Thank you for this.

    1. Thank you Chukwukadibia.
      Our goal is to raise awareness, raise a drug-free generation and finally advocate for a no supply market.

  6. Its alarming dat people in use of this drugs are closer to us than we know it and it explains most of their on and off behavioral mode sometimes

  7. My goodness….this is really a big surprise to me… I know some of our youth does such but didn’t know its up to this volume…. 500,000 bottles of codein being consumed daily by 40% of our population….

  8. Chizzy, you raised so many important points. But I think more of sensitization should be put in place. If you look at the age bracket of those involved you Will noticed a higher percentage of the population are still students. So enough of awareness can be done in schools to keep them informed of the danger ahead.
    I must not fail to commend you for this. You have well written. Keep it up.

    1. I agree with you on this. As part of my YALI community service, there is plan to carry out drug awareness campaigns in schools and churches

  9. “Never hold brief for your child and say “I know Junior, he’ll never do a thing like that” Always be on the look out for behavioural changes in your children.”
    First and best prevention measure.

  10. I never knew the gravity of this drug abuse until I saw the codeine video and then this article. This got me worried about the lives our younger ones are living instead school.
    The video also reminded me of my University school days in the North. I was on my way to Minna, suddenly the driver stopped and about 3-4 of the make passengers headed towards the bush, I thought they went to pee or something until a woman revealed to us that they went to a chemist hidden in a part of the bush to buy Codeine, that was actually my first time of hearing of the syrup. I didn’t take it seriously until someone told me about my roommate’s addiction to a certain syrup called codeine, that was when it dawned on me on the seriousness of the syrup. To further understand it, I decided to browse to browse about the syrup and other types of drug abuse then I got to know that some of the drinks and even food shared in school parties were mixed with similar substance. Thanks goodness I wasn’t a party freek. From that day onwards I promised never to drink any or eat in any party organised in the school

  11. This is a serious matter among the current day youth. There’s a lot that can be done to tackle this menace and you’ve done a good job by not just raising awareness but also proffering solution.

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