By Felicia Imohimi
As efforts to fight drug abuse in Nigeria hit to gear, the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) is set to constitute a Codeine Control and Other Related Matters Working Group (CCRWG).
This is coming barely two weeks after the Senate, led by its President, Dr Bukola Saraki, held a Roundtable on Drug Abuse in Kano.
The Roundtable which was held with the Pharmacists Council, NGOs, State Governments and Traditional Rulers, sought to proffer solutions to the menace of drug abuse that is fast claiming many youths in Nigeria.
At the roundtable, Saraki who expressed grave sadness at how youths, including young girls and nursing mothers were held by the clutches of drugs, vowed to go after importers and distributors in a bid to curb abuse of codeine and other substances..
It is in a similar vein that the Pharmacists Council is set to constitute a group that will control the distribution of codeine in Nigeria. (Codeine is a narcotic pain-reliever and cough suppressant similar to morphine and hydrocodone. It it now being abused and used as a stimulant and an intoxicant)
Speaking to our correspondent in Abuja on Sunday, Mr Elijah Mohammed, Registrar of the Council said that the control group would also sensitise the public on the dangers inherent in codeine consumption.
Mohammed specifically said that the group, which would consist of regulatory bodies and relevant stakeholders, would assist in the implementation of a communication strategy in the pharmacies and the patent and proprietary medicine vendors’ shops in various communities.
The registrar frowned at the large number of Nigerians that are already addicted to some of these medicines damming the consequence.
According to him, the group will aid in enlightening the society on the dangers associated with the abuse of preparations containing codeine and other related substances.
He added that the strategy will also involve pharmacy screening, monitoring and surveillance and how those addicted can get assistance and be rehabilitated,
Explaining the why codeine is being abused, he said: “Codeine is an opioid drug similar to morphine and has been approved and accessed over the counter in low doses for relieving patients of symptoms associated with dry cough,
“The codeine in such preparation, usually in smaller doses, serves as a cough suppressant and relieves pain associated with the stress of coughing,
“However, due to its inherent properties when used in high doses over a long period it has been associated with dependence and powerful addictive propensity especially when used for recreational purpose,” Elijah noted.
Mohammed identified the side effects of codeine to include euphoria, apathy, drowsiness, false sense of belonging among others.
He further added that the addict could withstand pains of various degrees and commit crime which in normal circumstances such individuals would not get involved in.
According to him, on the demand side, there is unhindered access to the preparations by the public due to sudden increase in the number of unregulated vendors selling these products all over the country with more impact on Nigerians in northern part.
Elijah urged manufacturers, importers and distributors of these preparations to display more sense of ethical and moral responsibilities in the production, supply and distribution of these products since there was no proven evidence of cough epidemic in the country.
He noted that the council was currently working with technical groups of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and other relevant stakeholders to institute programs to be driven by CCRWG to help addicts overcome the challenges of addiction.