Opioids, as described by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroine, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain killers readily available by prescription such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and many others. They are considered safe when they are taken as prescribed by a doctor and for a short period of time, however, regular use can increase tolerance and dependence and ultimately, lead to addiction.
Nigeria continues to battle an opioid abuse crisis. With expensive drugs like heroin out of reach for many unemployed youths, they are turning to cheap alternatives such as tramadol, an opioid painkiller, and taking them in life threatening doses in search of a fix. A drug use survey released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that over 14% of Nigerians aged between 15-64 abuse drugs, which is more than twice the global average of 5.6%. It showed that tramadol is causing the biggest societal problems in Nigeria. In 2018, the Nigerian authorities seized about 2 billion tablets of tramadol at the ports, which highlights the scale of Nigeria’s opioid crisis.
Unlike other opioids that are illegal and banned by the country, Tramadol does not require a prescription and is sold at pharmacies for a cheap price which makes it easily accessible. The ban of this opioid is not a feasible option as it is a painkiller that is widely used at hospitals and provides relief for those in immense pain such as sickle cell anaemia patients.
So what measure do you think can be put in place to curb the abuse of opioids that can not be outrightly banned by the government? How do you think the government can tackle the opioid crisis in general?