Akintayo: Unrestricted access is major cause of painkiller abuse
Experts say some drugs have abuse potential and people consuming these drugs can become addicted. Olumide Akintayo, immediate past president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) told GERALDINE AKUTU causes of painkiller drug abuse and how to combat it.
Why do some people abuse painkillers?
Drug misuse is grounded often times in abysmal ignorance that it is beneficial to use medicines, even when nothing is wrong with us. There are people who have turned a retinue of analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to routine medicines, to be swallowed automatically when they wake up in the morning. Others have taken these acts to the next level, which is drug abuse because they now indulge in abusing central nervous drugs, including stimulants and depressants. The major reason we might continue to contend with this evil remains the obvious unrestricted access to medicines in our drug distribution channels. There are too many unregistered and illegal medicine outlets from which medicines are sourced in our country.
What effect do painkillers have on the body when abused?
It depends on the category of painkiller. Generally, the mechanism of action of painkillers is to inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins. Needless consumption of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs predisposes such patients to ulcers and other gastro-intestinal side effects. The wreckless use of paracetamol has a tendency to induce renal damage. Opioid analgesics like morphine create severe drug addiction. Recent studies have also confirmed that unwarranted use of painkillers makes consumers vulnerable to cancer.
Do doctors prescribe more than required doses for patients?
Not necessarily. An average licenced medical doctor would properly handle dosing in analgesics and NSAIDs. He may clarify dosing instructions with a pharmacist even if there are challenges. I think the fundamental problem in our health system is that most consumers have become quack caregivers because of the most unfortunate easy access to medicines unpredicted anywhere else.
What advice would you give consumers abusing painkiller drugs?
My simple advice to all consumers of medicines (parents, children, professionals or what have you) is that they should source their medicine consignments or need through a pharmacist at a registered pharmacy facility. Sometime, the services might not be as fast or cheap as we would rather have, but the consequences of drug misuse and abuse may linger for a lifetime, if instant mortality was even avoided at first instance.
Are pharmacists doing anything to combat the menace?
At the level of our umbrella body, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and strategic technical groups like the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), we counsel consumers to buy medicines at Pharmacy facilities, which hoist the presumably famous green cross emblem. These are facilities both the PSN and PCN can vouch that you will enjoy the benefit of good pharmacy practice (GPP). There is always a value for sourcing medicines at pharmacies, as you ultimately save time and resources compared to buying at unregistered facilities, which are not known to law.