Ejiro remembers the time spent with the psychiatrist last year, he had been admitted to the teaching hospital for seven months.
He was diagnosed with liver damage and anxiety, a result of excess consumption of codeine.
I didn’t know how it all started; he told the doctor.
I was always acting out a cough for my parents. There was this intense urge to get tipsy, and I couldn’t stop taking the syrup.
Ejiro was 15 years when he was introduced to Codeine by his friends in the Secondary school, and surprisingly he was not the youngest member of the ‘Code Team’ as they called themselves in school. There were also girls he said.
The friends didn’t tell him of any impending danger, as they were oblivious of any health hazard themselves, said Ejiro.
When asked why he joined the Code Team?
Ejiro said he didn’t have the necessary time with his parents as his father was always making calls or in meetings. And his mother, who was a federal government worker was on transfer to another state.
Ejiro and his siblings were left to take care of themselves, as the only time he had a conversation with his father was whenever he wanted to get the monthly allowance.
My father thought the only thing we needed was money, he said with tears rolling down his eyes. He was not available for me to ask him questions, and he never noticed if I had a cough.
Ejiro agreed that the absence of morals led him to vices, and codeine always took him to an atmosphere of Glory occupied by only other codeine addicts.
Until he collapsed in the Kitchen one evening while making dinner for his siblings, that everything changed. His mum’s friend saw over 12 bottles of codeine in a secret locker in his room.
The Anti-Codeine Campaign
The Nigerian government has placed an embargo on the importation of codeine, and recently shut down a production site of pharmaceutical giants Emzor. This is coming after BBC did a video content on the abuse of Codeine in the northern part of the nation, with about 3 Million bottles consumed daily.
The visual content awakened us to how much young adults in Nigeria have sunk into abuse of substances, and drugs becoming a necessity for social acceptance.
We knew there was codeine addiction, but didn’t check the extent.
Codeine is a bio-genetic compound, a narcotic which is in the same family as nicotine. It prompts the human body to demand more of it. It’s a natural seducer, which acts like providing soothe to the body of its host. The relationship is however parasitic unknown to the millions of young Nigerians, that consume this drug daily. Codeine attempts to bridge the link between biological cravings and mental sanity.
In 2015, over 1000 patients were treated for substance abuse in Nigeria with tramadol and codeine leading. By 2017, codeine had become the most abused opiate drug in the country, going for about the price of a bottle of soft drink.
Most codeine addicts use the drug to get tipsy, sedate pains and take temporary alleviation of the different challenges encountered.
Codeine causes the host to be oblivious to life realities and only sees live social events as a mirage. The person is alone in his world, a temporary space created by the codeine. Unknown to the person that it’s a cinematic moment and the movie will always have an end.
Codeine is not the Problem.
Nothing happens in itself.
Life and death are products of series of events.
Codeine is the consequence of a breeding social ailment, a moral decadence waiting to explode.
Codeine is not a result of a bad economy because the rich kids also consume this substance. It is easier for this class to afford retail purchases.
Punch Nigerian spoke to a few youths that abuse the substance and their reasons include depression, social acceptance and peer pressure which are consequences of failed social and moral system.
The social system is highly corrupted that we applaud a depraved moral gang. We live in a society that has lost its first obligation, which is maintaining moral and social propriety.
We are putting so much pressure on trying to be successful; good or bad success, what’s important is that we are making money to keep up a social image, and post pictures on Instagram.
The failure of our moral system birthed youths turning to social vices and codeine is one of the results.
Parents have abandoned their roles of training a child in the way he should grow. We now have absentee parents, who are more concerned about KPI, promotions, training, and conferences. All these just put food on the table, send them to good schools and allows them to watch premier league matches.
Money is essential and answers all things, but it doesn’t replace the necessity for good moral tutorials. Instead, the absence of these tutorials abuses money.
And for the poor ones, whose parents don’t have KPI to meet and are not taking the flight to conferences.
They have refused to spread mats, sit their young ones down, open their ears and communicate good values to them. These poor kids are asked to be disciplined by established street urchins who start by sending these children illicit errands, before initiating them.
It becomes easy for these young persons to be initiated into morally depraved groups, who aid their journey into drug abuse and other illicit social event
In Search of Paradise
Codeine addicts are looking for Paradise they didn’t find in their homes. And the drug appears to offer a temporary haven.
These young persons desire happiness, one that money cannot give. The kind that is experienced when a tightly knitted family laugh over dinner, be it on a golden table in Park View Estate or a slum at Makoko.
Codeine is, therefore, an escape route to paradise, which is always for a while. At this point no whip can bring them back home again, they are gone to the warmth offered by this substance.
Paradise is not created by opium, or absence of social values. We don’t generate paradise by Instagram filters or renting cars to nightclubs.
Paradise is owning up to a good social reputation birthed by being of decent moral standards. Paradise does not abuse drugs, suffer depression or entertain suicidal thoughts; instead, it seeks to recreate its natural state of bliss for everyone in its ecosystem.
Ejiro who is 17 years now, said he never saw paradise, he experienced pains, anxiety, social misconduct and antisocial disorders.
We knew we were doing immoral things, but only the codeine could allow us do these things without regret. I had a lot of homicidal thoughts, he said.
Clearing the little Foxes
The banning of codeine won’t stop the abuse of substances. Codeine is just unfortunate to be a prominent narcotic.
Firstly, we need a state of the art rehabilitation program, which will address mental health and behavioural issues. We must take these young person’s away from the street, shutting every access to dangerous behaviors, engage and create a new life for them.
Shutting down factories will only contribute more economical and social pressures, adding to the web of substance abusers that we already have. Unemployment is a catalyst for a person to exhibit his lack of values and an avenue for the few honourable production workers to smuggle Codeine.
We need to deliberately resolve to teach our children about morals and change the narratives of social demands. It should not be about drugs, alcohol, and girls. Parents and likewise educators need to watch our young ones. The environment and media are polluted, and young persons who are not rooted in sound morals quickly fall prey to the demand of the society.
You can take codeine out of the system, but it doesn’t take addiction out of the Man. The absence of codeine is not parallel to the end of substance abuse. It only opens the door to a new substance abuse economy.
Teach a man values, and moral excellence and he will never touch codeine.
Until we jointly fix our dwindling moral system, something worse than codeine will rise and our faith might not fix it,