No, it will not. Once you ban such a drug, the sellers will go underground and it will then be sold at a premium and people will still have access to it. People should not just say “ban codeine.” Codeine is a medicine that is being abused. The first question should be why is it being abused? How is it accessed? What the government needs to do is to strengthen the distribution network and to truly control its distribution since it is a controlled drug. When you have a total ban, people will turn to other analgesics. It is not only codeine that is being abused. People also abuse paracetamol. Will you ban that as well? Does it mean that once a drug is abused, you will ban it? There have been several proposals to the government to set up proper distribution system for pharmaceuticals. When non-pharmacists have access to medicine and they sell like merchants, it is different from when it is sold from a proper pharmacy with documentation. So, it is this failure to ensure professional distribution that is leading to all the misuse. For example, a person who is addicted to codeine would probably buy many bottles. Ideally, if you go to a proper pharmacy and say you want to buy multiple bottles of codeine syrup, they will ask you why because you are supposed to have just one bottle, use it and after five days, if symptoms persist, then you are supposed to go see a physician to write you a prescription. Cough, itself, is not a disease on its own but a symptom of an underlying problem. So, when you are using cough syrup, you are simply addressing the symptom. Once you ban a substance, you should expect certain outcomes. After all, there has been a ban on Indian hemp. Is it not still being sold even though it is in dark places? Are people not growing it since the demand and profits that come from it are high? But if you can provide guidelines for distribution, then it can be available for those who need it because it is a medical product. Alcohol is a lifestyle drink. Are there no people abusing it and having accidents, killing people? Why don’t you ban that one as well? It is simple. It is because the government is benefitting from it. When you ban a medicine that is useful for specific people, you deny people that require that medicine from having access to it. • Lere Baale (Pharmacist/CEO Business School Netherlands)
The ban on the importation of codeine by the Federal Government is a welcome one because it will make the drug scarce and this will take it out of the reach of many of those who are addicted to it. Codeine is banned almost everywhere in the world but people still look for a way to get it at any cost.
However, despite this ban, some addicts will still look for the drugs through any means. The ban will make codeine scarce and expensive, but because it is no longer available, they will find cheaper alternatives to get high.
Cocaine is also banned almost in every country, but those who are addicted to it are looking for illegal ways of getting it at any cost. The only thing is that codeine will not be available to many people.
The ban will not stop the addiction, but it will make the drug scarce and expensive. Some will still look for a way to get it, while others will look for other drugs. But the ban is okay and it will help in some ways.
Drug abuse has been a huge problem in Nigeria and I think it is good that the government is taking this step because this will address it to some extent. But what leads these youths to addiction should also be addressed.
There are some youths in some parts of the country that sniff anything just to get high and these substances are relatively cheap and affordable. If codeine is banned, the root cause of addiction should be addressed so that drug abuse can be drastically reduced. • Dr. Femi Aina (Resident doctor, LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Osogbo)
Banning codeine syrup will not curb the addiction because codeine is just one of many types of drugs that people take. As far as I know, there are about seven or eight other substances these people abuse. Some of them include: Rohypnol, Tramadol, as well as weed, which is used in different forms. The most potent of the weed is what is called Arizona. At times, they mix these drugs in different quantities in order to increase their effects. So, banning codeine will not curb it. It is like leaving the problem and addressing the consequences. So, there are many things that can be done. Basically, it has to do with attitudinal change. There is a wrong perception a lot of youths have about drugs. Some of them believe hallucinogenic drugs will enhance their performances in whatever they do. When they are reading and preparing for exams, that is when we experience an increase in the use of these drugs. This is because they fail to prepare on time and so they want to force themselves to assimilate what they are reading faster. They overwork their body system and want their bodies to do the work of three days under five hours. So, they use these drugs to enhance their academic performance. It is a major problem. I think it is the attitude that needs to be addressed. Codeine is useful for many other things. That is the negative aspect of it. What about people who have health conditions that require codeine? Now that there is no codeine, they would need to find alternatives and that means the pharmaceuticals would have to put another drug in the market that can address this challenge. So, for me, it is the attitude of our youths that we need to address. • Dr. Remi Opayemi (Head of Psychology Department, University of Ilorin)
I think a ban on codeine syrup will reduce access; which is good. But an outright ban will not solve any addiction problem. I think the ban is problematic because when you ban a controlled substance, you have to think of the effect the ban will have on the people who actually need it. What would be appropriate would be to have more stringent laws in place that make it difficult for just anyone to access that kind of medication. Secondly, the people who are prescribing the drugs should be monitored so you can see how they prescribe it. In the US, for instance, there is a narcotic problem. The addiction rate is very high and what is being done now is to ensure that access to such medication is difficult. So, what happens is, as a physician, you can write prescriptions, but when it comes to prescriptions for controlled substances, you are required to have a separate prescription pad. People cannot just go to a pharmacy and ask for certain drugs and a doctor can only prescribe those drugs under extreme caution. So, what needs to be done in Nigeria regarding the ban on codeine syrup is to change the policy such that people who actually need it are not made to suffer. I don’t think we would deny the fact that the opium problem in America is a big one, but regulations are being tightened. I think that should be the approach Nigeria should take rather than an outright ban. The doctors who are also giving the prescription should be easily tracked or the drugs should only be made accessible in hospitals or registered pharmacies. • Adesola Akinkuotu (United States-based medical doctor)
The ban on codeine import is misguided. I think a cartel set up this job. The Federal Government cannot claim it relied on a single video to ban codeine. The video merely showed the abuse of codeine by some youths in the northern part of Nigeria. Most Nigerian youths in the north or south are not into drug abuse.
Again, we must ask ourselves, who is gaining from this ban? I must let you know that the Nigerian state, economy and people will be the ones at the receiving end.
Nigeria does not produce codeine as a raw material for the production of drugs or its derivatives. The decision is wrong.
It is even worse to have closed down Nigerian pharmaceutical companies because of codeine abuse. We can’t continue like this as a country. We shouldn’t allow capitalists of any kind to destroy our economy while they feed fat on us. •Clifford Thomas (Uyo-based legal practitioner and human rights activist)
Compiled by: Eniola Akinkuotu, Femi Makinde and Etim Ekpimah