In 2014, there were an estimated 246 million (range 162 -324 million) people in the world that have used an illegal drug in the past 12 months. The drugs used include cannabis, opiates (such as heroin), cocaine and amphetamine-type stimulants. Globally, the most common illegal drug used is cannabis. In Nigeria, drug use problems are found throughout the country but there are no official estimates of the number of drug users in the country. However, the numbers are considered large enough to be of concern.

The most common illegal drug used in Nigeria is cannabis. Other illegal drugs used include cocaine, heroin, amphetamine-type stimulants, inhalants and solvents such as glue. There are a lot of misunderstandings about the type of drugs people use and their side effects. This article outlines brief and accurate information on some major drugs used in Nigeria.

Note: We wrote about Cannabis in the first instalment of this series and about Cocaine and Heroin in the second.



Amphetamine-type Stimulants

Common names for amphetamine and methamphetamine in Nigeria: Players, Boys, Nuts, Speed, Uppers, Heart, Heat, Ice, Crystal, Fire and Glass.

Amphetamines are synthetic (chemical, not a natural product) stimulant drugs that speed up the messages travelling between the brain and the body. Amphetamines are generally swallowed but can also be injected, smoked or snorted. A type of amphetamine called methamphetamine commonly comes in small chunky clear crystals that look like frozen ice, while amphetamine commonly comes in a powder form.

Methamphetamine: Factsheet - Positive Choices

Methamphetamine is generally stronger, more addictive and causes more harm. When it is smoked or injected, the effect is usually in 3-7 seconds, but if swallowed, the effect takes place in 15-30 minutes. The duration of effect can last up to 6 hours.

Short-term effects:

  • Euphoria (intense excitement and happiness)
  • High levels of energy
  • Excitement
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety and Paranoia
  • Increased confidence and talkativeness
  • Reduced appetite (less hungry)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased sex drive

Long-term effects:

  • Jaw clenching and teeth grinding
  • Feeling powerful or better than others
  • Becoming hostile or aggressive
  • Reduced appetite and extreme weight loss
  • Restless sleep
  • Dry mouth and dental problems
  • Regular colds and flu
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Anxiety, paranoia, psychosis
  • Depression
  • Heart and kidney problems
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Needing to use more to get the same effect (developed tolerance)
  • Dependence on amphetamines

Withdrawal symptoms from amphetamine or methamphetamine generally fade after a week and mostly disappear after a month. Some withdrawal symptoms can include cravings for the drug, increased appetite, confusion and irritability, aches and pains, exhaustion, restless sleep and nightmares, and anxiety, depression and paranoia.


Inhalants and Solvents

Inhalant Abuse & Addiction | Types, Effects, & Treatment

Common names for Inhalants and Solvents in Nigeria: Shaba, Dogua, Solution, Helicopter and Sholisho

Inhalants and solvents are sometimes referred to as volatile substances and found in household, industrial and medical products – including glue, paint, petrol, aerosols, cleaning fluid, and gases – which produce vapours that some people (mostly adolescent and young people) breathe in (via nose or mouth) to get intoxicated or ‘high’. Inhaled fumes enter the bloodstream quickly and the effects are experienced in a few seconds often lasting 2-45 minutes. The effects can be similar to alcohol. Regular use can result in dependence.

Short-term effects:

  • Initial “high”
  • Giggling and laughing
  • Drowsiness and headaches
  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Nose bleeds, runny nose, sneezing
  • Bad breath
  • Agitation and aggression

Long-term effects:

  • Irritability and depression
  • Memory loss
  • Reduced attention span and ability to think clearly
  • Pimples, rashes or blisters around the mouth and lips
  • Tremors (body shaking), weight loss and tiredness
  • Loss of sense of smell and hearing

A majority of long-term effects can be reversed if the person stops using solvents but some cleaning and other products can leave permanent damage to the brain.

Withdrawal symptoms usually start 24-48 hours after the last use and can last for 2 to 5 days. Common withdrawal symptoms can include headache, nausea and stomach pain, anxiety and depression, tiredness and tremors, body cramps and hallucinations (seeing and sensing something that does not exist).


Cough syrups

How cough syrup in Nigeria is creating a generation of addicts - BBC News

Common names for cough syrup in Nigeria (e.g. Coldex, Exol) in Nigeria: Koko, Coco, Crude oil, Slow, Yaro Matunwa, Benylin with Codeine.

Some cold and cough medicines are mind-altering at higher-than-recommended dosages. Cough medicines are easy to purchase, relatively cheap, and often do not require a doctor’s prescription and misuse is reported in Nigeria. A common ingredient found in many cough and cold medications is either Dextromethorphan (DXM) or Promethazine-codeine. Cough and cold medicines are mostly in tablet, capsule or syrup form. Some people mix cough syrup with flavoured drinks, alcohol or cannabis.

Short- and long-term effects

Euphoria, calming, numbness, nausea or vomiting, increased heart rate and blood pressure, slurred speech, dizziness and blurry vision. In higher doses, there can be sensations of physical distortions and hallucinations. Promethazine-codeine cough syrup can lead to a higher risk of fatal overdose (slowing or stopping the heart and lungs) and this risk increases when mixed with alcohol. Long-time use can lead to physical and psychological dependency.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Sleep disturbances, nausea, fast pulse, raised blood pressure, sweating, weakness and headaches. To address dependency, detoxification and rehabilitation will be required.


(This was originally published as a response to drugs and related organised crime in Nigeria, developed in collaboration with UNODC and Nigerian stakeholders and funded by the European Union).

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