Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



Nigeria: Excess opioid use persists among youths, shatters dreams

Opioid user from Nigeria   -  
Copyright © africanews
Serge Koffi


Humbo's story is the tale of a broken destiny. He was the hope of Nigerian boxing but he sank into the consumption of codeine. An opioid is used as a powerful painkiller but very addictive.

For the past 10 years, this product took control of his life and shattered his career.

"Codeine has not really helped me. It has made me lose a lot of things in life and I do regret taking it," Himbo regretted.

The sale of codeine has long boosted the revenues of tens of thousands of pharmacies in Nigeria. For the past decade, Lawal Folasade has been advocating for the return of ethics in drug stores.

"We have a system, where regulation is not yet perfect. The regulative bodies are not properly empowered to do what they should do because you talk of millions of bottles of codeine. Where are they coming from?" Lawal asked.

Nigeria's 2018 restriction on the sale of codeine-containing products has not curtailed the phenomenon. Faced with depression, and grief, Nigerian youths use the substance to relieve them of stress and pain.

Nigeria’s drug enforcement officers have in recent times faced difficulties in fighting the use of codeine.

They have seized dozens of illegally acquired cartons of codeine products and also arrested a number of smugglers and users.

Their main hurdles come in handy whenever they make an arrest, the dealer is immediately replaced by another in the street, thus proving difficult to break the chain of supply.

Over 2.4 million Nigerians are addicted to opiates. In Nigeria, it is not illegal to consume codeine syrup.

Codeine can only be legitimately sold to people with a doctor's prescription or to those with a pharmaceutical license. But because of the huge amounts of money involved, much of the syrup is now being sold illegally through the black market, supplied by smugglers even after the 2018 ban.

View more