As increase in drug abuse continues to constitute a serious threat to public health and lives of young people in the country, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), has assured that with collective effort from all relevant stakeholders, the social menace would be reduced to the bearest minimum.
PSN and other stakeholders in the pharmaceutical sector had in recent time raised the alarm over increase in the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs among youths especially cough syrups with codeine and tramadol.
Calling for a synergy in tackling the menace during a media training organised by the Society to mark this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Lagos recently, President of PSN, Pharm. Ahmed Yakasai, said adopting a coordinated, comprehensive and result-oriented approach would certainly lead to sustainable solutions.
Yakasai emphasised the need for all stakeholders to rise and urgently address the challenge by finding lasting solution to it, lamenting that in Nigeria today, the issue of drug abuse has reached unprecedented level across all the geopolitical zones of the country.
” The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and her technical groups, PNS-Narcotics and Drug Abuse Committee as well as state branches across the country have been educating people on the dangers of drug abuse.
We’ve also called the attention of the government and other stakeholders to this menace. We believe that with utmost commitment from all stakeholders, we can reduce drug abuse to the lowest ebb in Nigeria. Our focus should be more on prevention of drug abuse as well as treatment of drug addiction in various parts of the country”, he said.
He further noted:” Despite the challenges inherent in tackling drug abuse and illicit trafficking, I hope and believe we are on the right path, and that together we can implement a coordinated, comprehensive and result-oriented approach that leads to sustainable solutions.”
Presenting the result of a survey on pharmacists’ perceptions, knowledge and attitudes on the menace of pharmaceutical drug abuse in Nigeria, Yakasai expressed worry that only 16 per cent of pharmacists have received any training recently about substance disorders even when the report shows that 55 per cent of them have had clients with pharmaceutical drug abuse problems.
According to the survey, about 95 percent of pharmacists in the country are aware of the current trends of pharmaceutical drug abuse while 95 percent of the target population are interested in receiving training.
The survey also shows that about 97 percent of
pharmacists have good knowledge of drug abuse as a social problem though only 86 percent indicated that they can identify signs of drug abuse in addicted person.
While 88 percent of them have information on adverse effects of drugs of abuse, only 46 percent of the respondents are familiar with counselling techniques for persons addicted.
From the survey also, only 48 percent of pharmacists are aware of rehabilitation centres for addicted persons while only 24 percent are familiar with treatment protocols for substance abuse disorders.
The PSN President noted that from the survey, pharmaceutical drug abuse can be due to peer pressure, cultism, presence of open drug markets, inadequate regulatory control, inadequate logistics, prevalence of illegal medicine outlets and presence of drug hawkers.
According to him, common pharmaceutical drugs of abuse identified are cough syrups with codeine, cannabis, tramadol, flunitrazepam, nicotine, alcohol, diazepam, bromazepam, methamphetamine and amphetamine.
The survey also identified factors that promote abuse of pharmaceutical drugs to include; unrestricted access to those drugs, distribution of prescription drugs with potential for abuse without observing good distribution practices (GDP), preponderance of illegal premises and influx of unregistered products into the markets.
According to the survey, banning or suspension of marketing licenses or sale of these products is not in the best interest of controlling or managing the pharmaceutical drug abuse situation currently on our hands as it would only result in drugs becoming more expensive as users and sellers go underground, and difficult to track.
In his remarks, Director of Narcotics and Controlled Substances of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr. Musa Umar, said that the misuse of controlled medicines appears to result from both their diversion from licit channels and distribution of illicitly manufactured products .
Umar said the most commonly abused drugs in the country are Tramadol and Codeine.
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid analgesic used to treat moderate to severe pain and is the most abused effective medicine among addicts.
It has no effects on the respiratory system but overdose causes arrhythmias, cramps , coma and death.
He said tramadol , a hitherto prescription -only -medicine was put under national control in 2013 after the 59th National Council on Health ( NCH ) meeting, based on national trends of abuse, harm to public health and social well- being .
In his lecture entitled: Contemporary issues in healthcare delivery (drug abuse and misuse, AMR, fake and falsified drugs and drug distribution) and PSN , the Registrar, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, (PCN), Pharm. Elijah Mohammed, pointed out that drug abuse and misuse is a social malaise as well as a moral and mental health challenge to the public.
Mohammed listed some measures to curtail drug abuse and misuse to include; blocking the supply source as when the supply chain is crippled, there would be no supply.
He affirmed that once the new National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) comes into force on January 01, 2019 and with good enforcement, it would drastically reduce drug abuse and misuse.
Represented by Public Relations Officer of the PCN, Pharm Peter Iliya, Mohammed said demand reduction was also important.
“There is no need to vilify or criminalise drug abuse and misuse or to stigmatise the victims; what the victims need is empathy, rehabilitation and re-orientation”, he added.
Other speakers at the media training were Pharm Ifeanyi Atueyi, publisher, Pharmanews and Pharm. Folasade Olufunke Lawal.