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In the codeine discourse, family matters

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Director General, NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye

On Thursday evening, I was with some friends and the issue of codeine came up.

We discussed the BBC undercover video, the addiction, why it is presumably more prevalent in the Northern part of the country, if it’s ban by the government and the closure of Emzor and other companies by NAFDAC was reasonable and an effective measure, how effectively the various regulatory agencies perform their regulatory and oversight function and how negligent or lukewarm they were to have let this abuse slip through them.

Throughout the discussion, I was lost. I particularly found it difficult to fathom why people – which statistics posit to be in millions – would want to abuse the use of codeine.

Mistakenly, I asked: Why do people take codeine? My friends were shocked and they must have thought me stupid and naive.

But since I had spilled my thoughts, I decided to stick to my guns and insist on getting some answers. Most of them could not articulate reasons.

I was convinced they had some reasons but they had difficulty expressing them.

One mentioned that, people want to be high.  I then asked, why would someone want to be high? Another naive question from me I guess. Another said, peer pressure.

Another, and probably the most articulate and intelligent I heard that day, said, that the difficulty of the work and the amount of strength some manual jobs required, made some people take these drugs to be energized while others use it to fight stress.

A friend broke the camel’s back when he said, Codeine’s abuse isn’t new.

That in secondary school, nine-10 years ago, he had friends who took stuffs like codeine, Tramadol, Benzodiazepine, opioids, and cocaine.

Someone else joked that though substances like codeine have been in existence for years, the sudden rise and abuse cannot be separated from the cruel hardship the current administration led by President Buhari has caused.

While they were talking and sharing more experiences, it then dawned on me that while growing up, I was oblivious of these societal ills or their prevalence.

The question then was why? It then dawned on me that I was oblivious of these ills, all thanks to my family.

My family is not a perfect family, but they provided a safety net which shielded me from vicious harm.

I decided to share this experience, in commemoration of the International Day of Families which is annually celebrated on the 15th May.

Right from ancient times to our contemporary times, family has always been defined in either of these terms; basic cell of the society, the original cell of social life, future of a society, initiation into life in society, the primary place of humanisation for the person and society, the cradle of life and love, seed bed for future leaders, safety net etc.

These terms aren’t clichés but they are very instructive as they show how indispensable, important and integral, the family is to society.

In fact, no other institution shares this type of definition or heritage as the family; that’s why social scientists aren’t scared to posit that the family does not exist for society or the State, but society and the State exist for the family. Little wonder, the family is of great public interest.

Over the years, reasonable and responsible governments have always been interested in supporting and encouraging families to be strong because they realise that good and stable families invariably lead to better societies and vice versa.

In support of this, Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that: The family is the natural and fundamental unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.

The family when faithful to its mission has always been a very effective safety net, which shields young minds from the scary and sometimes malicious things the world offers.

True to the word “safe”, it shields young ones from harm and unnecessary exposure. It also provided a safe net for its elderly or sick members.

Then parenting wasn’t the task alone of the biological parents but the community at large.

But things are changing. Family is now extremely complex, or we’ve decided to unnecessarily make it complex.

In line with the natural principle of change, family has undergone a ‘revolution’.

Some good aspects of this revolution include; better equality between men and women in marriage and in society generally, a greater awareness that both parents have a mutual responsibility in bringing up children and in undertaking domestic tasks.

Better ways to respond to the emotional and practical needs of children etc.

However, the same way we have rejected some not so good practices from the past, we have also lost or rejected some good from the past and its effect is being felt.

Globally, the institution of the family has been attacked from various fronts, from the redefinition to include same-sex unions is seen as the worst attack but there are also concerns on the fewer number of persons willing to form a family, the rising number of people cohabiting, low fertility rates, rising divorce rates for all kinds of reasons, both flimsy and real, unstable marriages, single or absentee parenthood, children outside wedlock, infidelity, domestic violence, exclusion of the elderly and sick.

All these aren’t isolated events which leave the society unaffected. On the contrary, these events have very severe repercussions on society and the effects are grave.

If the family is the original cell of social life, then it means that the happenings in the larger society serve as a thermometer to measure the status of our families and the readings aren’t good.

The society is gradually losing its humanity, its heart and sense of care and empathy. Our moral and social precepts and conducts are fast disappearing.

Many teenagers are now susceptible to bullying, cyber bulling, drug abuse, gun violence, increased crime rate, pornography, trafficking in persons and sexual assault.

In fact, statistics all over the world have proven that most crimes committed by teenagers, occur mostly among those who are from either broken homes or lacked proper parental attention.

They unfortunately are the most vulnerable, as they wander to fill the gap the family is meant to fill, they fall prey to mischief-makers who most times cause more harm than good.


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