A disturbing upward swing in the abuse of Tramadol and other mind-altering substances in recent times in many parts of Nigeria is one issue, which should engage the attention of every Nigerian, at this point in time.
In May this year, a 24-year-old male final year university student died at an Intensive Care Unit of a hospital in Anambra State, after ingesting an unknown quantity of liquor, codeine syrup, Tramadol and marijuana at a party.
Also, penultimate week, an unidentified youth in Oko-Oba, Agege, Lagos State, cut his life short by consuming a deadly mixture of marijuana and Tramadol. His corpse was evacuated from a refuse dump by men of the Abattoir Police Division.
Perhaps more disturbing was the report from the Commandant of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Abia State, Mr. Akindele Akingbade, that a junior secondary school pupil at Ohafia in Arochukwu Local Government Area who consumed 10 tablets of Tramadol to enhance his performance during an inter-house sports competition, died in March this year.
Abuse of Tramadol, codeine, drain water and other substances, has also been reported in the Northern part of the country, sending people to lunatic asylums, rehabilitation centres and yet, many others, into untimely graves.
Only recently, a report on this issue on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) drew the ire of government and traditional institutions across the country.
Tramadol, a narcotic-like pain reliever, is a banned substance in Nigeria. Though, not a controlled medication in some countries, because, unlike opiates such as cocaine and heroin, its abuse was never anticipated. Tramadol is an analgesic used only under prescription for treatment of moderate to severe pain.
Research has shown that Tramadol also works as an anti-depressant, producing euphoria or energy, unlike other opioids, which accentuate drowsiness. Hence, it has been found to be an effective aphrodisiac and in the treatment of premature ejaculation, even as some found it as recreational drug because it does not prevent people from carrying out their daily routine when used under expert’s prescription and monitoring.
It is, however, never prescribed for those who have severe breathing problems, a blockage in the stomach or intestines, or those who have recently used alcohol, sedatives, tranquilizers and narcotic medication, among others. As part of its negative effects, Tramadol causes terminal pain, cognitive decline, loss of memory and, as have been seen in many cases, it is responsible for untimely death.
Confirming the nexus between criminality and drug abuse, an alleged armed robber died in Ondo State late in August after been unconscious for 10 days since his arrest at a chemist with a cut-to-size locally-made gun and 400MG of Tramadol.
Increase in rates of crimes like robbery, rape, kidnapping and others have been attributed to drugs, which remove all inhibitions.
In most cases, facts have shown that scores of those who abuse these drugs are youths of 30 years and below, meaning that an estimated 61,306,413 or 31.7 per cent of Nigerian population are guilty of drug abuse. This is very disturbing.
The danger, therefore, becomes more fore-bolding, in view of the fact that if unchecked, this abuse has scary potential on a generation, which forms the nucleus of the national development. This gravely and predictable consequences on the future of this generation necessitate a clarion call on all well-meaning Nigerians and even the International Narcotic Control Board to rise to stop this unpleasant trend.
Bearing in mind the fact that patent medicine sellers and pharmacists are reprehensible in the current spread of Tramadol abuse as they dispense drugs to consumers without control, we also suggest immediate placement of these groups under watch. Also, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria should join in the battle by ensuring these medications are dispensed under strict control.
As a major player in effective control of Tramadol and other abused substances, we strongly recommend that NDLEA must rise to its duties by ensuring effective implementation of the National Drug Control Master plan, which attacks the menace from the four planks – licit and illicit drugs, drug demand reduction and adequate penal sanctions.
While we commend the continued seizure of Tramadol and other banned substances by NDLEA, it is also vital for all military and para-military agencies at the border posts and sea ports to check the importation of the items into the country.
Parents, schools and faith-based institutions, as well as stakeholders, should ensure training of adolescents and youths on benefits of drug demand reduction and dangers Tramadol and other substances pose to their health, by making graphic references of fatal consequences common in the country.
Of equal importance is the need to ensure effective collaboration of all law enforcement agencies in the current battle by making certain quick arrest of Tramadol sellers, abusers and prompt and diligent investigation and prosecution of such cases to send strong signals to felons who might contemplate the crime currently ravaging the country.
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