More and more people are dying from acute prescription drugs intoxication. The most widely affected are celebrities, athletes and executives.
Worldwide, the most commonly abused drugs are opioids, stimulants and central nervous system depressants. Prolonged use of these drugs may result in addiction. Cough syrups containing not more than 12.5mg/5ml codeine and combination analgesics containing 10mg per unit dose codeine can be bought without prescription in most countries. This means that such drugs are accessible to the general public.
Recently, Nigeria announced a ban on the production and import of cough syrup containing codeine after a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) investigation into its role in an addiction epidemic. The BBC investigation showed the syrup being sold on the black market to be used by young Nigerians to get high. It recorded a number of pharmaceutical figures selling the drug illegally. The joint probe by the BBC's new investigation unit, Africa Eye, and BBC Pidgin prompted a swift response from people across the country, including Nigeria's first lady, Aisha Buhari, who said in an Instagram post she was "deeply saddened" by the rise of the problem, especially in the north of Nigeria.
In Zambia,more and more people are soliciting drugs such as promethazine, codeine and tramadol from pharmacies. However, there is little information on the extent of the problem. These drugs when taken alone or in combination with other drugs can result in serious life threatening complications especially when normal dosages are exceeded. Concomitant intake of such drugs and alcohol can lead to respiratory depression, coma and death.
Physicians should be made aware of double doctoring as a means by which addicts get more than the required prescription medicines. Furthermore, pharmacists should be on the look out for bogus prescriptions and council clients on the dangers of such activities and how they can get help. Lastly, it may be prudent to reschedule such “good” medicines.
- Mr. Ernest Simpemba
Assistant Professor- Pharmacy