It will be stating the obvious to say that drug abuse has attained a new and higher dimension in Nigeria. But recent efforts and achievements of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) clearly testify to the fact of the enormity of the problems on our hands, as well as the agency’s unalloyed resolve to substantially curb this menace. Just recently, among other achievements, and actions carried out by the agency, was the confiscation and destruction of expired drugs, food, cosmetics, as well as expired drinks worth N80 million.
Within the same period the agency also in a related development confiscated two truckloads of tramadol – a drug used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. It is pertinent to note that this ‘simple’ medicine works in a manner similar to morphine, an alkaloid narcotic drug.
Social vices have consistently been on the rise, ranging from petty thievery to thuggery, motor park touting, armed robbery, kidnapping, militancy, and armed insurgency, etc. This phenomenon cannot be thriving for nothing. Surely, drug (and substance) abuse many at times is behind these activities of mainly the youth in our society. Needless to say it is heart-warming to learn that NAFDAC has really stepped up its actions in its bid to try to curtail the easy accessibility of these drugs to the public. But very importantly, we call on the community pharmacists who are in the thick of drug distribution and sales, to fully complement the efforts of the agency in blocking all available loopholes.
In furthering the war against drug abuse, the patent medicine dealers (chemists) should be thoroughly checked to ensure they do not further compound the already bad situation. These set of drug dealers are often in the habit of dispensing without caution – over-the-counter medicines, and even sometimes ethical drugs, which is unlawful so to do. Patent medicine dealers are not trained professionals and as such the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN), PSN as well as NAFDAC must urgently focus more attention in their direction.
Over-the-counter pain medicines such as Ibuprofen and acetaminophen may influence how people process information, experience hurt feelings, and react to emotionally evocative images. These findings are what should inform the response of our policymakers as well. It has come to light from recent studies that over-the-counter pain medicines may influence individuals – altering behaviour and brain functions. Thus they have been found to affect one’s ability to empathise with the pain of others.
Studies show that individuals who take a dose of acetaminophen can be less emotionally distressed while reading about persons experiencing physical or emotional pain; they show little or no regard for such individuals. And because individuals who take a dose of acetaminophen for instance are liable to commit more mistakes of omissions in performing tasks, it is a sure proof that these seemingly simple drugs are capable of thwarting one’s ability to process information.
Little wonder so many young people have been found to engage in criminal activities, leading to breakdown of law and order. This range of medicines are relatively cheap and easy to access compared to the more expensive forms of powerful, habit-forming narcotic drugs such as morphine, heroin, cocaine, etc. The reviewed findings about these drugs are indeed alarming. Usually consumers will assume that when they take a ‘simple’ over-the-counter pain medication, it will merely relieve their physical symptoms, but they do not anticipate that it could result into some broader psychological effects.
These medicines have been formulated for the very important purpose of helping patients overcome pain, and sometimes create numbness, etc. Yet, experts need to do more to examine the efficacy and determine if they would as well have negative effects for people who take them in combination with other medicines; same for those who are depressed and have difficulty feeling pleasure. In all, it makes it really dangerous should these drugs fall into wrong hands.
Based on the foregoing therefore, it is time for policymakers and community pharmacists, etc, to begin to think about potential public health risks and benefits posed by the use of these medicines, and save our younger generation from the destructive effects of their abuse, while benefiting from their proper usage in guided healthcare delivery.