Drug agency finds N19m worth of illicit drugs in cartons of noodles

After opening the cartons and discovering that they contained 1.316 tonnes of Tramadol 225 mg tablets, the exhibits were confiscated.

The NDLEA’s state Commander, Mr Yakubu Kibo, made the disclosure shortly after displaying the exhibits on Thursday, February 22, in Yola, said the drugs are valued at N19 million.

According to him, a suspect, John Ugwu, who owns the shop which is opposite Mubi General Hospital, was arrested.

Following thorough investigations, 183 cartons of Indomie noodles were discovered.

The rise of illicit drugs among Nigerians

In May 2017, a Twitter user @Olubaba60detailed how he nearly died from an overdose on Tramadol and codeine. He also frequently used Refnol. His story is just another story of thousands of young Nigerians who are into these dangerous drugs.

In November 2016, Eromo Egbejule published a story titled "Is there a growing drug epidemic in Nigeria?". In his article, he states that there is a serious drug culture in Northern Nigerian ranging from cocaine, codeine to sniffing fermented human waste known as Jenkem which produces hallucinatory effects.

In March 2016, the undefined for the illicit production of methamphetamine located at Asaba, Delta.

The laboratory had the capacity of producing between 3,000kg and 4,000kg of methamphetamine per production cycle.

In the 80s and the 90s, Nigeria was mostly a trafficking point for narcotics from South American cartels who wanted to smuggle drugs to Europe. Nigeria's security system was poor which made it ideal to move drugs.

The situation has grown worse. Nigeria is still a trafficking point but now we have turned into a country who produces and consumes these drugs.

Cartels in South America produce meth in Nigeria because of cheap labour and poor security network. Nigerians don't just move cocaine anymore, they now consume it. The expensive nature of the drug makes sure its clientele is mostly the rich and wealthy.

While cocaine isn't accessible to the middle class, drugs such as codeine, Refnol and Tramadol are. They are easily accessible on the streets of Lagos despite the best efforts of the government. The Federal Government is still using kid gloves to deal with drug abuse.

Tramadol: Our go to illicit drug

Painkillers are all the rave for recreational drug users the world over nowadays; in Nigeria, the favourite of them is tramadol, an over the counter pain medication that is at the fulcrum of a very present drug problem.

On Tuesday, Twitter user @KoloKennethK tweeted his account of a major drug bust involving billions of naira worth of Tramadol at Lagos’ Apapa Port.

“39m tablets of Tramadol, worth N3bn with above prescription quantity per tablet seized at Apapa.”, the tweet read.

As astounding as the figures are, it only confirms something that the thousands of empty drug tabs on the streets of cities like Lagos and Kano have been trying to tell us.

Nigeria’s drug problem is sufficiently documented, even though a walk through the streets will tell you a more vivid story.

Where conversations about drug abuse come up, fingers are most commonly pointed at marijuana and codeine.

Reports like the aforementioned tweet and emerging social trends show that we may have been wrong: Tramadol, a seemingly harmless drug sold over-the-counter to anyone with a buck, may be Nigeria’s problem drug.

What is Tramadol?

Tramadol is an opioid analgesic. It is prescribed to treat moderate to moderately severe pain and is considered a safer alternative to other narcotic analgesics like hydrocodone, and methadone.

It is delivered in two forms. For medical purposes, such as surgeries or for severe pain, it is given as intravenously as an injection or passed as drips.

It is also sold in Nigeria as an over-the-counter medication in green capsules of between 50mg to 400mg.

When taken in pill form at high doses, some of its less desirous side-effects include nausea, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, and dry mouth.

In the inverse, tramadol can produce a euphoric high similar to another commonly abused opiate medication, oxycodone (OxyContin).

In addition to this high, it is also abused for the feeling of numbness from pain, lucidity and extreme alertness that it gives by heightening the senses.

The numbness that Tramadol brings is one of the main reasons why it has become a drug of choice. Users describe the feeling of being high on Tramadol as “forgetting everything that doesn’t matter”.

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