Yesterday, an amendment bill that proposes a N2 million fine and two-year jail term for abuse of tramadol and codeine passed a second reading at the Nigerian House of Representatives.
During the debate, Hon. Apiafi said:
"In Nigeria, between January and December 2015, one thousand and forty-four (1044) patients were admitted for treatment in the 11 treatment centers currently part of the Nigeria Epidemiological Network of Drug Use ( NENDU) reporting system."
She went on to state that since 2015, codeine has nearly overtaken tramadol as the most abused opiate in Nigeria:
"Thousands of young people in Nigeria are addicted to codeine cough syrup - a medicine that has become a street drug.
Three million bottles are drunk everyday in Nigeria’s North alone, according to a recent Nigerian government report."
Yes, but isn't that indicative of a larger, deeper problem? Are we not going to ask why they're turning to drugs? Should we not be falling over ourselves to build rehab centres?
Addiction is defined as a complex disease of the brain and body that involves the compulsive use of one or more substances, despite serious health and social consequences. Addiction is a disease, not a crime. Criminalizing addiction will not make the problem go away.
The new bill stipulates penalties for individuals up to the tune of N2 million or a prison term of two years or both; and in the case of a corporate body, all the directors, managers, partners, trustees would be guilty of an offence and would be punished as if they committed the offence themselves.
You see, a bottle of cough syrup with codeine costs about N1000 - N2500, and a satchet of tramadol is about N100. If addicts had N2 million to spare - or just had it - neither of those would be their drug of choice. The FG needs to stop bandaging issues up instead of attacking the root causes.
A ban won't solve it. Criminalization will definitely not solve it. But rehabilitation is certainly a start.
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