Nigerians are also dying from prescription medications

Nigerians are also dying from prescription medicationsAt the last count, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson was hooked on more than eight prescription medications, including three powerful narcotic pain killers. The western world has woken up to the reality of the imperfection of any system, no matter the height of technological advancement and fairly rigid social control. Western history is littered with numerous cases of prescription drug dependency or addiction, if you like. The news that flitter to our ears relate to those with celebrity status. Numerous cases abound of the common people with dependency on sedatives or hypnotics. I have personally attended to many. Coming to the celebrities, it seems to be a different ball game. Their penchant and pathological love for prescription drugs seems to have no boundary. That is for those who chose not to go the path of the hard stuff, heroin and cocaine, and other such illicit substances.

The Entertainment magazine published June 27, 2009 informed that Michael Jackson was preceded in this game by other illustrious names. Marilyn Monroe was said to have overdosed on prescription medications relating to mental health, conspiracy theories notwithstanding. She was just 36 years of age. Judy Garland followed in 1969 and she was just 47 years of age. Not to be left out, Anna Nicole Smith joined the celestial bandwagon in 2007 following a prescription drug overdose at the age of 40 years. At 30 years of age, Australian star, Heather Ledger died of cardiac arrest following a prescription drug overdose. Also recorded by Entertainer magazine is the prescription drug-induced death of Dorothy Dandridge, at the age of 42 years, the first African American to be nominated for a Grammy Award. Let us not forget that Jimi Hendrix, the legendary guitarist died from overdose of sleeping pills and inhalation of vomitus. Something is very ominous, the death of Michael Jackson would certainly not be the last in the saga in a problem that is, frankly speaking, no longer limited to developed countries. The sad fact is that even here in Africa, even in Nigeria, this problem exists and must have caused numerous unexplained deaths attributed to the “works of enemies”, witchcraft or such supernatural causes.

Africa is besieged with numerous unexplained deaths. Many could rightly be attributed to the consequences of poverty and dearth of a well organised and non-epileptic healthcare and social infrastructures. The reality is that we also have our own deaths from medications. Our health care system is such that many medications that should rightly come under prescription drugs are sold in the open market. Thus in our environment, they dangerously fall under what is termed Over The Counter drugs (OTC). A situation where antibiotics can be easily bought under the counter leaves much to be desired. Apart from the tendency towards easily building up drug  resistance, the harmful effects of these medications are thus difficult to control, with many succumbing to the side effects of these drugs without knowing. A situation where a primary school dropout, manning a “chemist” shop is deemed competent by ignorant Nigerians to have the knowledge to treat most ailments simply because he operates the chemist business is definitely not healthy for any nation and its people. Our chaotic drug market is such that there is no clear distinction between what should be sold over the counter and what should only be dispensed under prescription.

The healthcare system in Nigeria is truly in a very sorry state. Every hospital worker is either a nurse or a doctor, the ward orderlies and domestic staff inclusive. Atrocities are openly committed in the name of healthcare delivery in our dear country. Hospital attendants have practically assumed the lofty roles that doctors should normally be occupying. I must confess that their patronage is fascinating. They dabble into all sorts of treatment. I write from what I saw happening and not from fiction. I used to know of a hospital attendant in a part of Lagos State who was so “good” at this job that she had to open an office to attend to patients at the close of work every evening. The queue that she attended to daily is better imagined. This woman treated ailments from the “common” malaria to even diabetes. I knew another whose speciality was in termination of unwanted pregnancies or abortions. Of course, she dabbled in all sorts of treatment but this seemed to be where her expertise was most felt. I need not say that she succeeded in sending many to early deaths. I used to know another who worked as a leprosy vaccinator in one of the General Hospitals in Lagos State. The knowledge of his specific job was only restricted to those privileged to work with him at the hospital. To the ignorant masses outside, he was a “doctor”.  Dr Jaguar (as he was well known) operated from the confines of his room where his little centre table served as the slaughter table (sorry, theatre table). Dr Jaguar killed so many from incomplete abortions, septic abortions, perforated uteri and so on. He was arrested so many times by the Nigerian Police and always found his way out. As I write, Dr Jaguar still commits atrocities freely. I can write loads on the sorry state of termination of unwanted pregnancies in Nigeria but this would be a story for some other day.

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