The issue of drug abuse has recently come to national consciousness prompting the ban on codeine in the aftermath of a documentary exposing the prevalence of codeine consumption in some parts of the country by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a UK public service broadcaster.
Experts say drug abuse has become an issue of national emergency to safeguard the future of the youths who are entangled in the cobweb of drug abuse and misuse
This is why stakeholders have called for concerted efforts to unravel the factors promoting abuse of drugs with a view to reducing the risk to the barest minimum if not completely eradicating it.
According to a survey conducted by the Narcotics and Drug Abuse Committee of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), many factors have contributed to the prevalence of drug abuse.
The survey presented last week by the president of PSN, Ahmed Yakasai, at a one-day capacity building workshop for journalists in Lagos conducted to study the pharmacists’ perception, knowledge and attitudes on the menace of pharmaceutical drug abuse in Nigeria. This is discernible as most pharmacists deal directly with clients with the tendency for overconsumption of drugs.
The PSN, representing thousands of pharmacists in Nigeria, has been in the forefront of raising alarm over the prevalence of drug abuse which, according to Yakasai, has reached unprecedented level across the geopolitical zones of the country.
Therefore, according to the survey, the factors promoting the drug abuse are peer pressure, cultism, presence of open drug markets, inadequate regulatory control, inadequate logistics, prevalence of illegal medicine outlets and presence of drug hawkers.
The common pharmaceutical drugs of abuse identified by respondents are cough syrups with codeine, cannabis, tramadol, flunitrazepam, nicotine, alcohol, diazepam, bromazepam, methamphetamine and amphetamine.
Yakasai said: “The respondents strongly agree that factors that promote abuse of pharmaceutical drugs include unrestricted access to those drugs, distribution of prescription drugs with potential for abuse without observing good distribution practices (GDP), preponderance of illegal premises and influx of unregistered products into the markets.”
He also said, “The prevalence of illegal outlets is a serious problem. So far we don’t have more than 55,000 outlets registered with the Pharmacists’ Council of Nigeria (PCN) but we have more than one million pharmaceutical shops scattered all over Nigeria. So that means 950,000 medicine stores are illegal and they are there. The drug hawkers are there.”
Yakasai stressed the need for improved enlightenment campaign on the danger of drug abuse saying the PSN is engaging the media to fight the menace.
“The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and her technical groups, PNS-Narcotics and Drug Abuse Committee as well as state branches across the country have been educating people on the dangers of drug abuse.
“We’ve also called the attention of the government and other stakeholders to this menace. We believe that with utmost commitment from all stakeholders, we can reduce drug abuse to the lowest ebb in Nigeria.”
The PSN president also emphasised the need for pharmacists to specialise in mental health pharmacy, while calling for the establishment of rehabilitation centres to treat drug addicts. “Also, prescription policy must be implemented,” he added.
At the workshop were representatives of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and other relevant stakeholders in pharmaceutical practices.
The director of Narcotics and Controlled Substances of NAFDAC, Dr. Umar Musa, said it is the common shared responsibility of all Nigerians that would reduce the risk of drug abuse to the barest minimum.
Stressing that NAFDAC has been in the forefront of the campaign through regular seizures and destruction of drugs, he said all the seizures were just a tip of the iceberg.
Musa suggested that in curtailing drug abuse, there is need to block supply source, demand reduction, and tackle fake and falsified drugs.
He said: “Once the new National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) comes into force on January 1, 2019 and with good enforcement, I see a veritable way of drastically reducing drug abuse and misuse.
“Drug distribution is a key and strategic component of any healthcare system. A healthcare delivery system lacks credibility and legitimacy without good drugs. Medicines are at the heart of any health care intervention be it immunisation, surgery, orthopaedics, paediatrics, oncology or reproductive health,” he said.
The PCN registrar, Pharm. Elijah Mohammed, represented by Pharm. Peter Nliyah also expressed optimism in the new National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) to reduce drug abuse and misuse in the country.