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Cough Syrup (Codeine) and Tramadol Tablets Abuse: the new trend amongst Nigerian Youths



Most times when we hear of drug or substance abuse, our mind quickly goes to other forms of hard drugs like cocaine or heroin; we most often do not realise that our regular pain relief drug’s contain minute quantities of same ingredients as hard drugs. The latest trend amongst Nigerian young men and women these days however, is taking an overdose of Cough Syrup containing Codeine, or even Tramadol tablet meant to treat those with severe bone problem and this is becoming worrisome because if not checked properly by parents and loved ones, may prove a problem in the nearest future. This article therefore, is meant to dissuade any one who has been abusing either of these drugs and enlightening others who may want to venture into such path.

Codeine and Tramadol, What they are for?


Tramadol is an opioid-like pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory drug. It’s commonly prescribed for back pain, sprains, arthritis, patient’s treating cancer and to people who need pharmalogical pain relief, while Codeine is an opiate used to treat pain, as a cough medicine, and for diarrhea. It is typically used to treat mild to moderate degrees of pain. Since it is difficult to get raw codeine in Nigeria, people go for them in registered drugs, which are sold over the counter in every pharmacy today either as Cough Syrups or Pain Reliever; You will agree with me that every registered drug has a prescription leaflet inside it, warning users not to take them in excess or most often telling them what to do if taken beyond the prescribed dosage; More so, It has been noticed that the side effect from taking an overdose of such drugs may include but not limited to, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, loss of appetite and weakness, but even with these in mind, it is not enough to deter young people from taking them in excess, because the side effect, is in fact their reason for taking them.

Drug Abuse and the Brain Functions.


According to Wikipedia, Drug Abuse, is a patterned use of a drug in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful to themselves or others, and is a form of substance-related disorder. WebMD defines Drug Abuse as a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the drug addict and those around them. So, how does these drugs affect the Brain functions? They do so by directly or indirectly, targeting the brain’s reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that control movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure and these explains the way users of such drugs react to it. Codeine, Heroin, Morphine, Tramadol and other opium alkaloids, make up the class of drugs known as the narcotic analgesics and because of their ability to relieve pain, narcotic analgesics have been some of the most important drugs in medicine.

More so, since it is difficult to get cocaine, heroin and other forms of narcotics in the market today, drugs like Codeine and Tramadol that are readily available in our pharmacy’s and local drug stores, are seen by youths as alternatives to other hard drugs because they are cheap and provides same pathway to sensation as hard drugs.
What is an Opium.


Going back to history, the Babylonians in 4000 B.C. used Opium plants as a pain reliever and to promote sleep. The first undisputed writings about poppy juice was by a Greek philosopher known as, Theophrastus, whose writing was widely praised in the third century B.C. Opium preparations were later given the name laudanum (from the Latin word “laudare,” meaning “to praise”) by the Swiss physician Paracelsus (1493-1541). Beginning in the late 1600s until the discovery of anesthesia in the mid-1800s, a preparation of alcohol and opium, usually given in whisky or rum, was the drug most widely used to prepare patients for surgery.

Like heroin and morphine, codeine is an alkaloid of opium, a drug made from the milky juice of unripe seed capsules of the opium poppy. More so, depending on classification system, synthetic substances such as Tramadol that are directly derived from the opium poppy are considered to be opiates as well. It is illegal in many countries to plant or own an Opium farm but legal for medical purposes in some but only in processed form. These Opioids are processed chemically to produce heroin and other synthetic Opioids, like Tramadol, for medicinal use and for the illegal drug trade.

Side Effects of Codeine and Tramadol:


Like other opiates, codeine also has an itchy, sedating effect. A codeine user may be drowsy, especially if he (or she) is using a high dosage or is abusing the drug. His heart rate will slow down, which can lead to fainting or dizziness. Its mental effects could include confusion, irritation, antagonism or agitation. If effects or dosage are more intense, there could be hallucinations or even convulsions.
Common side effects of tramadol includes; flushing, dizziness, congestion, sore throat, drowsiness, headache, itching, constipation, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, weakness, anxiety. More so, more serious side effects of tramadol can include: Seizures, Mood Problems ( there is an increased risk of suicide in depressed patients who take tramadol), Hypersensitivity reaction ( including swelling of the tongue or throat, trouble breathing, and skin rash)

I have seen young men mixing Cough Syrup with alcoholic beverages, some even go as as far as taking Tramadol tablets with energy drinks. Do note that, dangerous side effects or death can occur when alcohol is combined with codeine or tramadol. Codeine and Tramadol may impair your thinking or reactions. Avoid driving or operating machinery until you know how this medicine will affect you. Dizziness or severe drowsiness can cause falls or other accidents.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions.