Nigeria: Country of the Purple Sprite Epidemic
- More than 3 million bottles of codeine cough syrup are consumed daily
- Bottles on the black market sell for nearly $14
Nigerian officials raided several pharmaceutical companies for reportedly selling codeine cough syrup without prescriptions and fueling an aggressive black market. The country also banned the controlled substance, which is often mixed with soft drinks and popularly known as “lean.” Can Nigeria reign in its codeine addiction?
Why This Matters: Companies including Bioraj, Peace Standard, and Emzor Pharmaceutical were illegally distributing the drug. The threat to supply has caused bottle prices to surge on the streets and nearly double from $8 up to $14.
Nigeria is far from the only country riddled by an opioid crisis. In the U.S. lean culture was popularized by the southern hip hop community, spreading across the mainstream, and boosting recreational consumption. Its claimed the lives of its endorsing movers and shakers, such as A$AP Yams and DJ Screw. Local communities have not gone unscathed either, for the black community opioid-involved deaths increased by 56% among those 15 years old or older from 2015 to 2016. Opioids and synthetic opioid related deaths mostly affect black men ages 25-44.
What’s Next: The Nigerian ban alone is not enough, users may be driven to other potent, cheap, and accessible drugs. Here in the U.S. the Department of Health and Human services developed a five point system for battling the crisis, including promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs such as Naloxone. Nigeria on the other hand, recently proposed two bills to combat the issue. Senate President Bukola Saraki says the effort is to enhance mental health support across states and target networks that encourage illicit sales.
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