From my perch – episode three: Codeine addiction

What does codeine mean to you? A drug you recall vaguely? The cough mixture that makes you sleepy? One of the active ingredients in that analgesic your doctor recommended? Or your flight ticket to utopia?

Today codeine is the new addiction causing drug of choice among young men between the ages of 18 – 40 and even a number of people outside that group here in Lagos, especially among people of low to mid income. Cough mixtures containing codeine outsell their non-codeine counterparts in practically any pharmacy or patent medicine store in Surulere. The codeine addicts replenish their stock as often as everyday, imagine having customers buy codeine preparations daily. It’s good for business but when you consider the fact that these young men cannot function without codeine then it’s a huge problem.

Codeine is a short acting narcotic (usually opioid derivatives that act on the central nervous system and have a huge potential for addiction) that has the ability to act on the part of the brain that controls cough. It can suppress cough and is usually used for dry cough.

How do people get addicted? It causes a feeling of calm and wellbeing as well as feelings of pleasure. Codeine causes the stimulation of neurotransmitters (chemicals that trigger and carry nervous transmission) and stimulate the reward centers of the brain. Unfortunately the pleasure effect of codeine reduces with consumption and the addict needs more and more of the drug to get the same effect.

If the addict for some reason cannot get his drug of choice, he suffers from withdrawal symptoms. This means that he is said to be physically dependent on the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms include: drug craving, runny nose, yawning, sweating, insomnia, weakness, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle spasms, chills, irritability, and pain.

Unfortunately codeine enjoys over the counter status in Nigeria, this means that there is no restrictions for its purchase. I’ve worked in a place where the superintendent pharmacist decided he won’t sell codeine preparations without prescription. Sales picked up! These guys were bringing beautiful prescriptions that allowed them buy at least two bottles at a time. This “codeine boys” as my colleagues refer to them are usually responsible looking young men who have money to burn. They use Iphones- I know two who have iPhone 6, drive good cars, speak Queens English etc.

If you know anyone who’s addicted to codeine or if you’re an addict yourself, please try and get help. Parents should also monitor their children and educate them on the dangers of drugs of addiction before their “friends” educate them and introduce them to it.

  Have a fantastic weekend everyone.


One Comment

  1. Lovely and educative piece, I’ve got friends tho in it. They’re cool with it and it makes it difficult to knw hw to help them wit it


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