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Why adolescents abuse prescription drugs

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Why adolescents abuse prescription drugs


More Nigerian youths abuse prescription drugs, among other substances. Ruth Olurounbi, in this report, takes a look at why youths abuse drugs, the health implications and measures being taken to rectify the upsurge of drug abuse in the country.

The Director of Narcotic and Controlled Substances, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mr Hashim Yusufu, disclosed sometime last year that Nigerian adolescents are abusing prescription drugs.

The director was of the opinion that adolescents between the ages of 12 and 21 abuse codeine, a narcotic pain medicine.

Codeine, which relates to morphine and heroine, falls into the category of opiates and is derived from the opium poppy, experts have said, is used to relieve pain and anxiety.

A well-known prescription drug, codeine falls into the category of opiates and is turned into morphine by the body in order to be utilised properly, with a sole purpose of relieving pain and anxiety.

Psychoactive substance use, the World Health Organisation (WHO) explained, could lead to dependence syndrome - a cluster of behavioural, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use.

That, typically, the WHO said, would include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state.

Side effects of codeine, which was said to be an example of psychoactive substances, experts said, included dry mouth, itching, drowsiness, constipation, orthostatic hypotension, nausea and vomiting and urinary retention.

Dr Kemi Lawali, who works with Lifesprings Foundation, a rehabilitation centre for addicts in Ibadan, Oyo State, said youths often find a recreational use for codeine, mainly because it was very easy to obtain, saying it could either be obtained as over-the-counter-drug or as a prescription drug.

Experts warned that using codeine recreationally had many dangerous effects, one of which constituted dependence on the drug, which, if given two to three weeks of dependent use, could translate to both physiological and psychological addiction.

A medical doctor with Bethany Hospital, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Dr Oye Abimbola, said many people who abuse codeine did not know that a combination of aspirin and codeine could lead to internal bleeding, particularly in the stomach, just as combining codeine with ibuprofen (another common pain killer) could almost certainly, lead to liver damage.

Experts have also warned that misuse of this drug could and would lead to a lack of co-ordination and dulled responses to life; a respiratory depression and many unpleasant effects.

A psychologist, Felix Johnson, said youths get involved in substance abuse for varied and complicated reasons, ranging from peer pressure to an escapist mode of life, stating also that the use and abuse of substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, and illegal drugs, most often, begin in childhood or the teenage years.

Certain risk factors, the psychologist said, may increase an individual’s likelihood to abuse substances.   Factors such as ineffective parenting, chaotic home environment, poor school performances and social coping skills, he said, could account for  why many youths abuse drugs.

Association with a deviant peer group and perception of approval of drug use behaviour were also said to be what motivate youths to go into drug abuse.

“Policies which influence the levels and patterns of substance use and related harm can significantly reduce the public health problems attributable to substance use, and interventions at the health care system level can work towards the restoration of health in affected individuals,” the World Health Organisation said.

National Project Coordinator, Science and Technology Post-Basic (STEP-B), Professor Michael Adikwu, had said distribution of pharmaceutical products have, in the country, “been a major challenge to pharmaceutical practitioners as well as regulatory and other healthcare providers, including the government, adding that “effective system of distributing pharmaceutical product is key to improving health care and reducing mortality in the country.”

He stressed on the need to strengthen regulatory authorities in the country and for structured distribution network through partnership wholesaling.

Yusuf, who said measures were being put in place to control the supply of the drugs in the market, stressed that codeine, valium and other related habit-forming medicines required prescription by a certified medical practitioner before they are sold.

He assured that “the Federal Ministry of Health, the WHO and NAFDAC are working on a new distribution guideline where the distribution of drugs could be harmonised.”

Yusuf, who said one of the ways NAFDAC had been combating the problem had been through campaign and talks in school, the print and broadcast media, charged the public to be on the lookout against “those who engage in shoddy activities when it comes to drug use.” - Nigerian news, Health & Beauty news, naija, Nigeria, West Africa

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Updated 7 Years ago

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