Top 10 Dangerous Drugs Abused By Nigerian Youths, Number 1 Is A Real Menace

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Roqeebat Bolarinwa Avatar

(Writer, Healthcare Innovation & Leadership)

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Drug or substance use disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Edition as a pattern of symptoms resulting from drug use, notwithstanding the apparent dangers connected with drug use.

It can be surprising to learn that the majority of abused drugs are actually intended for therapeutic use when taken according to the prescribed regimen.

In this article, you will learn about the top 10 common dangerous drugs abused by Nigerian youths.

Codeine-based Cough Syrups

When consumed in large quantities, these syrups provide a sedative and euphoric effect.

The common way these drugs get abused is by adding soft drinks to make a concoction known as “lean” or “sizzurp.”

In addition to being an addictive opioid (analgesic), codeine is a pain-relieving medication.

When overindulged, it can lead to organ failure and schizophrenia.

Due to excess consumption or abuse, which could make them high, youths have been reported to purchase and abuse cough syrups containing codeine.

A common one is the Emzolyn cough syrup, which was originally intended to relieve cough and cold.

It is no surprise when, in 2018, the BBC published a news article with the headline “Nigeria bans cough syrup with codeine after addiction outcry.”

In the same year, Nigeria’s drug enforcement agency raided Katsina state and confiscated 24,000 bottles of codeine syrup from a single truck.


Drugs used in Nigeria

Tramadol, a synthetic opioid(analgesic), entered the international market in 1977 under the trade name Tramal and was quickly adopted due to its relatively low addictive potential and moderate pain-relieving properties.

Although classified below morphine and codeine, it has comparable effects.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) registered it in Nigeria in 1995.

Opioids are drugs that include prescription pain relievers like morphine, illegal drugs like heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

They interact with opioid receptors in the brain and body and are used for pain relief, anaesthesia, cough suppression, and diarrhoea treatment.

However, opioids carry high risks of addiction, tolerance, and overdose.

Tramadol abuse has grown over time. In addition to its therapeutic use under prescription, Tramadol is abused for its pain-relieving and euphoric effects.

After a BBC investigation into the widespread abuse of codeine in Nigeria, the BBC also did an investigation in 2018 on the abuse of Tramadol: “Nigeria’s Tramadol crisis: The drug fuelling death, despair and Boko Haram.”

The investigation revealed that Tramadol was a serious scourge, especially in the northern parts of Nigeria, where youths abuse it instead of alcohol due to religious restrictions on the use of alcohol. It’s also worthy of note that excessive use of opioids like Tramadol can cause kidney problems which is also becoming a problem among Nigerian youths.

Marijuana (Weed)

Often referred to as “Igbo” or “weed,” marijuana is smoked for its psychoactive effects, inducing relaxation and numbing the abuser’s perception and orientation.

It remains one of the most widely abused drugs in Nigeria.

According to Mohammed Marwa, Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Nigeria had the highest rate of cannabis consumption in 2023, with over 10.6 million users.

There has been agitation from Cannabis enthusiasts to legalise the use of Cannabis as a personal recreational drug, and a latest development saw the Department of Justice move to reclassify Cannabis as a less dangerous drug, the move if successful, would see Cannabis become a schedule III substance in the same category as other prescription medications like Ketamine or Testosterone taking it away from the schedule I controlled substance (drugs with a high risk of abuse and no accepted medical use).

Loosening the regulatory restriction around Cannabis does not outrightly make it legal for use but allows scientists to study the drug more freely.

In the United States, though marijuana is illegal on the federal level, some states allow the use of marijuana for adult medical purposes or recreational use.

The laws guiding the use of marijuana may be sketchy. Still, we may be seeing historical shifts, like the reclassification of Cannabis, as a pointer that society might be inching closer to accepting the drug as a social or recreational drug like alcohol.

However, we must not feign blindness to the burgeoning problem of drug abuse, especially among young people.

There have also been reports that some pockets of bodies are also advocating that Nigeria can cash in on their big marijuana market and make huge economic gains.

Well, we forget that we’re still fighting to contain the rottenness drugs have brought to our society and that the idea of ever making a drug like marijuana legal in Nigeria will bring us more trouble than any good.


Although expensive, cocaine is abused in urban areas for its intense euphoria and perceived status symbol.

Its use can lead to addiction, health issues, and legal problems.

It is common among the elites, sometimes even trafficking it illegally for profit purposes.

Cocaine, also known as coke, is a powerful stimulant derived from the coca plant. It is a highly addictive drug. It is important to note that cocaine can have severe and harmful effects on the body and mind.

Globally, it is the second most frequently used illicit drug, and its widespread use can have significant societal and health implications.

In recent times, Nigeria has been implicated as a hub for drug trafficking, and cocaine happens to be among the popular drugs peddled by drug traffickers, cartels and smugglers in Nigeria who use it as a route to Europe and the Middle East.

Cocaine might not be a common street drug, and there’s little research into how it affects Nigerian society, albeit it’s still one drug that’s causing a lot of hurt and damage to the young people of our society and the country at large.  


A highly addictive opioid, heroin is either injected or smoked for its rapid onset of euphoria.

It poses severe health and social risks to its users, including an increased risk of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis due to needle sharing.

Chronic use can lead to severe physical and psychological dependence, and overdose can be fatal (leading to death).

The social impact, just like with other hard drugs, includes increased crime rates and family breakdowns.

Heroin is also a “high-profile” drug in Nigeria and is only available to those who are wealthy enough to afford it. However, variants and lesser purer forms can find their way to the streets and can be bought cheaper.

Heroine is a highly addictive and deadly drug that can cause severe damage to long-term users who are addicted to it.


Benzodiazepine tranquillisers such as Valium and Xanax are often abused for their sedative effects, explaining why one may obtain them illegally in an attempt to self-medicate or for recreational use.

It also causes dependency, cognitive dysfunction and withdrawal symptoms.

It has some memory-weakening effects. It is capable of inducing risks associated with falls greatly, leading to a potentially lethal overdose if used together with other depressants or alcohol long-term.

Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription medication that binds to the GABAA receptor, resulting in anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anticonvulsant, and muscle-relaxing effects.

These medications, primarily prescribed for psychiatric illnesses, have made their way to the streets, where young Nigerians use them for recreational purposes. Use can be fatal, and sometimes overdose can lead to death.

Energy Drinks With Alcohol

Nigerian youths are mixing alcohol into energy drinks in hopes of longer highs and increased drunkenness.

It can also result in a boldness that leads to some riskier acts, such as Driving Under the Influence (DUI), unnecessary conflict and increased crime rates.

Health risks associated with these drinks include both the masking of the presence and effects of ethanol (rendering a false sense of sobriety and subsequently increasing risk-taking) by caffeine, leading to an increased risk for irrational behaviours.

Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth)

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a stimulant drug that accelerates the central nervous system of your body. It increases the production of dopamine, a brain chemical involved in movement and motivation. Dopamine also triggers a signal that encourages the repetition of behaviours that bring about pleasure.

“Nkpuru Mmiri” (seed of water) as it’s popularly known in the eastern parts of Nigeria among Igbo youths who have been reported to be the major users of Crystal Meth or “Ice” in Nigeria.

In 2022, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) released reports indicating that there has been a 400% upsurge in methamphetamine use over the past five years.

This alarming statistic reveals the magnitude of the abuse.

The use of methamphetamine can lead to several health issues, including harm to the cardiovascular system.

Abuse of the drug causes severe dental and skin sores caused by scratching, weight loss and a higher susceptibility to infectious diseases from needle use.

Long-term use can lead to serious mental health problems like paranoia, hallucinations and aggression.


Alcohol may not be a drug in its strict form, but the abuse of alcohol has been widespread among Nigerian youths, leading to poor health standards and addiction.

According to data from the World Health Organization from 2021, about two-thirds (60.3%) of Nigerian youth who drink alcohol between the ages of 15 and 19 report binge drinking.

Additionally, heavy drinking can lead to liver diseases or conditions such as heart disease and mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

The social implications are domestic violence, road casualties and decreased productivity.


Due to its high nicotine concentration, tobacco has historically been used for addictive and recreational purposes.

Its limited therapeutic usage is mostly in traditional remedies.

Its harmful impacts, such as elevated chances of cancer, respiratory illnesses, and cardiovascular issues, are made evident by modern medical science.

Tobacco smoking among young people in Nigeria is a serious issue, frequently brought on by peer pressure, stress, and curiosity.

Preventing teenage tobacco use encourages better lifestyles and lowers the cost of healthcare in the future due to diseases linked to tobacco use.

Strategies To Curb Drug Addiction Among Nigerian Youths

Efforts to address this issue should focus on education, prevention, and rehabilitation to help young people avoid the pitfalls of drug abuse and find healthier ways to cope with life’s challenges.

Furthermore, the need for stricter regulation and enforcement to curb the availability and abuse of these drugs cannot be overstated.


In conclusion, the abuse of drugs and substances among Nigerian youths poses a significant threat to their health and well-being. From codeine-based cough syrups to Tramadol and marijuana, the widespread misuse of these substances has led to addiction, health problems, and widespread societal and economic problems.

The societal and economic impacts of drug abuse underscore the urgency of implementing comprehensive strategies and support systems to tackle this pervasive issue.

By working together, government agencies, healthcare providers, educators, and community leaders can make a meaningful difference in the lives of Nigerian youths and contribute to a safer, healthier society for all.

Finally, it’s essential to underscore the importance of fostering open and supportive conversations about drug abuse and mental health.

Destigmatising these topics can encourage individuals struggling with substance abuse to seek help and support, and it can also promote a greater understanding of the complexities of addiction.

Through collective action and compassion, we can strive to create a future where Nigerian youths are empowered to make positive choices and lead fulfilling lives free from the grip of drug abuse.

Further Reading

Roqeebat Bolarinwa Avatar

(Writer, Healthcare Innovation & Leadership)

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