The title of this post was borrowed quite liberally from David Jones David’s song, titled ‘Hello Doctor’. Have you seen the video? You should – very instructive about the subject I am about to write on.
Many children hate cough syrup. Scratch that…they hate all medicines. However, there are some teenagers who take ten of bottles of cough syrup daily! Can their coughs be that bad? Could a doctor have prescribed all of that?
If you’re into pop culture, you may know that at parties, sometimes, these cough syrups, especially those containing codeine are added to drinks, to enhance the drinking experience L
And then we have those people who sniff glue. One would wonder if they love the smell that much or perhaps, it reminds them of something/someone pleasant?
Then there are those who inhale the fumes from soak away pits! Now you would consider that downright disgusting! What’s to like in the smell of poop?!
This is the new or perhaps, old face of drug addiction in Nigeria which is just getting a lot of face and air time now.
In the past couple of days and weeks, a lot has been said about drug abuse in Nigeria (codeine, tramadol etc) including bans et al. It is important that this conversation continues with great emphasis on control of ethical and prescription drug prescription. However, that’s one side of the problem – the supply side. However, the supply side exists because there is a demand for this. So, we need to take a look inwards to understand what drives the demand. When did our teenagers move from hating the smell and taste of drugs to ‘downing’ bottles daily? When did it become fashionable to sniff stuff? Who is most likely to be affected by this and what can you do if you discover this? This post will focus on prevention, treatment and enforcement.
First, why do people start taking these drugs? Codeine is an opiate drug which is addictive with potentially dangerous effects used for pain relief and also suppresses cough, which is why it’s found in prescription cough syrups. Pentazocine is another pain killer, originally thought to be non-addictive, but that has since been found to be a drug of addiction that affects mood and behavior. This drug is used for moderate to severe pain. A good number of people start using them first, because they were prescribed by a medical practitioner. Some users report that initially, they just liked how the drug took away the pain they were feeling (I’ve heard this a lot from sickle cell patients with bone crises) but when the pain reduced, they observed some other ‘great’ feelings they were experiencing like ‘euphoria’, ‘feeling good all over’, ‘no worries’, ‘relief for pain and the mind’ etc. Others do not have the excuse of pain. They have heard how good these drugs make one feel. Some conditions make people more at risk of this drug misuse and addiction. They include:
- Personal or family history of substance abuse
- Heavy tobacco use
- Stressful conditions
- History of depression and/or anxiety
- Previous history of alcohol misuse
- Regular contact with high-risk groups or environments
Why do these drugs make people feel this good? They depress the central nervous system leading to feelings of drowsiness and relaxation. They make the users sociable, euphoric and serene. For someone who is dealing with a lot of stress, these are desirable feelings making the users want to re-enact them again and again. The physical dependence that subsequently develop, lead to withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not taken. These symptoms include sweating and chills, irritability, abdominal discomfort etc. So, quite a number of users actually continue to use these drugs subsequently just because they do not want to experience these withdrawal symptoms – they can be quite severe.
Sniffing glue produces the same effect of depressing the central nervous system. For those who inhale fermented human waste, the fumes act as a hallucinogen causing change in perception and hallucinations.
How do we prevent this? When I say we, I mean all of us as a community of people either suffering from this, know people who are suffering from this or know people who are at risk of this. We all need to get involved.
For one, if you or someone you know has a prescription for these drugs, please have a long discussion with your doctor as to how to use, how long it should be used and what signs to look out for that might suggest dependence. I suspect the doctor will do this without prompting but as has always been my take on this page, you all have to be empowered with information about your health so you can make the best decisions for yourselves and your families. If the doctor does not provide the information, please ask. It is your right! While these drugs are still being used according to prescription, keep them out of the reach of children or indeed anyone who could misuse them.
If you’re a parent, are you providing adequate information and a safe home environment where your children can thrive in all ways? Are you comfortable discussing any issue with your children? Are you aware that if you’re not providing this education yourself, you’re probably allowing your teenager to learn from his friends and/or the internet…where he/she may very well be learning all the wrong things! Engage them in activities they are interested in like sports etc and encourage open discussions without judging.
To wean one off this, it’s usually best to get into a voluntary program for drug addiction where there will be a combination of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. A long hard look at one’s life including unhealthy relationships, toxic home/family environment etc will be encouraged. The program will involve detoxification, exercise, counseling and other creative activities like music, art, dance, drama etc. Getting enrolled with a help group will also be helpful, if this can be found.
If you perhaps live in an area where none of the above can be readily achieved, you may have to go it alone…perhaps with the support of family. There are two options: cold turkey (where you stop completely at once and ride out the withdrawal symptoms) or where you stop gradually and you reduce the dose of drugs from 3 ampoules daily, to 2 and then 1 and then on alternate days until it’s completely tapered off. Please try!
Nothing good in life comes easy. One needs to work at this if one wants to be free and with all of us helping and pitching in to help, we should be able to arrest the demand side of this problem.
Stay drug-free y’all!