Surprising reveals on codeine abuse

photo credit: venture Africa

Codeine is a short-acting narcotic that is prescribed by physicians and it mostly used for pain relief, couigh and diarrhoea treatment. It can be highly addictive and gives its users an overall feeling of pleasure and sense of high/calm. When codeine is used, it penetrates the brain and causes the release of neurotransmitters that excite the reward centre of the brain, which leaves the users to have intense feelings of pleasure. This kind of pleasure can lead to both physical and psychological dependence.

Codeine is used by different individuals for legitimate medical purposes, but can develop to addiction problem over time. An individual that is addicted to codeine can start to feel withdrawal symptoms if he goes a short time without using the substance.

Some of the risk factors associated with codeine Abuse.

Family history: Some individuals who have relative or parents that have addiction problems are likely to be addicted to substances later in their life.

Environment Many studies have shown that children that grew up in an unstable environment and may be exposed to siblings or parents using drugs may abuse drugs.  This holds true because through modelling they learn that drug abuse is an acceptable way of coping with emotional problems and stressful life events.

Peer influence: Many teenagers and youths are introduced into the abuse of codeine and/or any other drug, by friends and acquaintances. The feeling for a sense of belonging or to feel accepted among their peers, drives a lot of teens and youths into these acts of intense drug abuse.

The Nigerian Menace

In recent times, the abuse of a lot of prescription drugs such as codeine, tramadol, rohypnol, marijuana has become a major source of concern, some youths even go as far as mixing all this together in cup of water or juice, a mixture colloquially referred to as “gutter water”. The abuse of codeine in particular is of an even more serious concern, this may be attributed to ease with which it can be purchased from just any road side pharmacy or chemist shop. A story trending on social media a few weeks ago spoke of how “a phone was lost at a naming ceremony somewhere in Northern Nigeria and when every attendee was searched, codeine was found in the bags of 90% of them. Students in Universities and Secondary schools abuse codeine with reckless abandon, mixing it with soft drinks and taking it at any opportunity they get. Over the recent months, truckloads of cough syrups being illegally brought into various Northern States where the abuse is very high has been impounded by law enforcement agencies. Recently undercover investigators from an international News agency recorded themselves buying cough syrups with codeine “illegally” from an accredited distributor of a well-known drug manufacturing agency.  These chain of events have led to the ban on distribution of codeine by first, this manufacturing company and most recently the government of Nigeria. Some people have described the ban on this drug as one that will only have a “cosmetic” effect as it will, in the long run, only make the drug very difficult to get for those who genuinely need it for medical purpose while making it even more printable in the illegal trade as the price will be sky rocketed by these peddlers and thus, stricter measures like prison sentences for people caught in this act need to be taken.

Prevention and control of codeine overdose

Prevention is always the best approach when addressing the misuse of narcotics in any society. The World Health Organisation recommends decreasing inappropriate opioid prescription, making naloxone available to those who might witness opioid overdose and offering support psychologically to maintain treatment options.

What has worked? The Scottish Government since 2011 funded a national take-home naloxone program to educate friends, family and caregivers on the causes of administration and overdose of naloxone. The entire individual released from prison that was on opioid drug is given naloxone as they leave. The policy has led to a 20% to 30% decrease in opiate-related deaths among the prison release population.


Education is a tool that is used to influence ones behaviour through development of knowledge and skills and the cultivation of values.

Education for drug abuse prevention should be incorporated into the school curriculum.

Parental supervision and monitoring can also be critical for drug abuse prevention. These skills can be boosted with training on rule-setting such as praise for appropriate behaviour.

…On a Final Note

Our children are the future of the world, we must take every possible measure to make sure they are well prepared for the future that awaits them. Drug abuse can only do them harm and ultimately jeopardise their future, thus, from a young age they must be enlightened on the ills of such practices and made to desist from them. It is also pertinent to state at this point that those already bound by the shackles of drug abuse need not be ostracised but should be rehabilitated with love as there is no one beyond rehabilitation.


post written by Ojieh Ugochukwuka (Msc)

………………always make an informed healthy decisions.


3 thoughts on “Surprising reveals on codeine abuse”

  1. Your article is very enlightening, and at the same time, easy to grasp. It will be very handy for high school and inner city youth outreaches. Well done Ugo. I’ll be looking out for more insightful articles from you.

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