Nigeria is Addicted to Tramadol

Nigeria is Addicted to Tramadol


I was on vacation in Lagos, Nigeria. At the Naval Medical Centre in Victoria Island to be exact, when I heard about the dissolvable drugs used by high-ranking officers. Showing signs of addiction in public. Being that the navy is a branch of the military, routine drug tests and check-ups are common. Yet, people consume the drug, and everybody knows who is using it. After hearing about the power of drug addiction in Nigeria, like usual, amongst my family members, we made jokes about the matter. My aunt took a sip from her Coca-Cola bottle, and I remember “assuming” she was drinking Tramadol. We laughed, and it was a moment that passed. The realization that failed to land* was that addiction could affect people anywhere. Even the ones at home.

“Nigeria is currently experiencing an opioid addiction crisis – millions of citizens are addicted to Tramadol, a legal but highly addictive synthetic opioid. Though not as potent as heroin or morphine, it’s readily available so is an easy choice for users. Due to Tramadol’s comparatively mild effects, addicts typically combine it with alcohol, marijuana, codeine, and/or Rohypnol.

Though Tramadol users come from all segments of Nigerian society, it is especially popular with young workers and students. Since the drug permanently affects users’ memory, recovering youngsters are unable to return to school and learn new skills which could lead to better work.

Addicts can seek treatment at an NDLEA (National Drug Law Enforcement Agency) rehabilitation center. Part-jail and part rehab, patients are locked up for a cold-turkey detox. In keeping with the popular Nigerian view of drug addicts, inmates are treated as mental patients. Despite this harsh program, many who pass through this program relapse.”   — Emin Ozmen



*to come, set in

Location: Nigeria
Words: Michelle Umunna
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