Wahala dey oh.
There has always been substance abuse one way or the other in the country. Different agents have been uppermost at different times. Cannabis with its different monikers like igbo, grass and hemp was the main one for a while. Different artistes both locally and international sang about it and glamorised it.
Then the era of the toxic and addictive cocktail known as monkey tail which is commonly available at bus stops and motor parks set in. This was glamorised by Nigerian millennial hip pop stars and artists in their songs. Monkey tail and abuse of Codeine containing cough syrups struggled for supremacy for a while.
Today, the new kid on the block is Tramadol. It is the koko now for both the ajebutter and the aje pako. It also cuts across age barriers and social class.
Tramadol is an opioid analgesic and is commonly used to treat or manage moderate to moderately severe pain. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) originally approved Tramadol for use in 1995 and it was initially not classified as a drug of control. Tramadol works on the nervous system and brain to reduce the feeling of pain.
In Nigeria, Tramadol is sold as an over-the-counter medication. In addition to providing relief from pain it can also produce an euphoric high. Therein lies the reason for its abuse.
In addition to this high, it is also abused for the feeling of numbness from pain, lucidity and extreme alertness that it gives by heightening the senses. When mixed with alcohol, it increases the effects of the alcohol.
So here you have a drug that can be bought without prescription, is fairly cheap then add the high it creates and you have hit the jackpot.
Now with increasing demand the neighbourhood aboki and onye chemist are only too eager to stock and make it available to the willing buyer.
Like every drug of abuse, numerous myths have been created around it. It is said to increase ability to do extreme manual labour, serve as an aphrodisiac and increase sex drive and above all supposedly makes a gentleman perform beyond measure in the other room.
The abuse of Tramadol can cause dizziness, weakness, sleepiness, insomnia, headache, shaking, heartburn, panic attacks, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, itching, sweating and dry mouth. Convulsions have also been known to occur too.
Sadly too, abusing tramadol can lead to tolerance and dependence. People who are psychologically addicted to tramadol can feel anxiety if they do not have access to the drug.
Habitual users who become tolerant to Tramadol need to increase the amount or frequency of the doses they take in order to achieve the desired effects. This puts them at risk of accidental overdose and death.
Tramadol abuse and dependence present many challenges and medically supervised intervention is essential to provide cure.
Unfortunately our country does not have enough medical facilities to handle the looming epidemic.
The time tested phrases…prevention is better than cure and a stitch in time saves nine have become absolutely instructive.