A Nigerian doctor, Mairo Mandara has revealed why codeine abuse is prevalent in the Northern region of Nigeria.
The doctor has been in the fore-front of the fight against codeine abuse and its ban, made the revelation while speaking on the BBC Outlook radio programme.
Dr Mandara, a former surgeon and former country director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told BBC that she is willing to risk her life to stop the abuse of codeine.
According to her, since Islam says drinking alcohol is wrong for Muslims, people opt to take codeine, which has the same effect as alcohol.
Mandara said that they take the drug because they feel they are not doing anything wrong.
She however was quick to add that a lot of Muslim scholars have begun to caution the youth against substance abuse, specifically codeine.
You will recall that the Senate leader, Ahmad Lawan said that 70 percent of the codeine syrups either produced or imported into Nigeria finds its way into the hands of terrorists in Sambisa Forest.
Lawan also alleged that some of the security agents fighting Boko Haram in the North-East may be under the influence of Codeine.
There is an addict in every family in the North
The former surgeon also said that almost every family in the North has one or two people addicted to codeine.
Mandara added that it is a personal fight for her, because a member of her extended family is hooked on the drug.
She said some of her friends even told her that their children were addicted to the cough syrup.
Why the silence?
According to Dr. Mandara, what surprised her most during her campaign, was the silence. She said people feel it is a shameful thing if you have an addict in your family.
She also said that her desire to fight against codeine abuse boils down to her belief as a Muslim.
Mandara added that Islam teaches that it is wrong to see something going bad and not do anything to correct it.
Reaction to codeine ban
Following a BBC documentary titled ‘Sweet Sweet Codeine’, an investigative piece on codeine abuse in Nigeria, the Nigerian Government announced a ban on the drug.
The documentary delved into the underworld of codeine distribution and sale in the country.
Speaking on the ban, Dr, Mandara praised the government, saying it is the right step.
According to her, codeine now costs five times its normal price, making it more difficult for young people to buy the drug.
Selling codeine is now illegal
She also advocated that people should report any pharmacy selling codeine off the shelves to the appropriate authorities, adding that it is now illegal to do so.
The ban will also make it difficult for young people to get addicted to codeine, she said.
Dr. Mandara said she used to be worried at the alarming demand for the cough syrup, adding that most times, pharmacy stores were filled with healthy people queueing to buy bottles of codeine.
Dr. Mairo Mandara is an obstetrician-gynaecologist by training, she has also served as a senior country advisor to Nigeria for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
Mandara was the Nigeria-based health systems advisor for the Earth Institute at Columbia University.