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Analysis: Experts, an addict urge Tramadol users to “stop” as Drug Authority fastens control over medicine

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New Life Alcohol and Drug Addiction Rehabilitation Center

 By Biruk Alemu  @Birukalemu21

Addis Abeba – On 01 November, the Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority issued an unusual announcement that it was set to implement a strict control and has directed pharmacies in Ethiopia to restrain from selling tramadol, an opioid medicine used for the short-term relief, as one of over-the-counter medicines to consumers without special prescriptions from authorized physicians. The Authority issued the caution based on increasing reports on the abuse of the pain killer, which it said was risking the lives of many, particularly the youth.

According to the authority the number of youngsters who use Tramadol without a prescription from physicians is snowballing now, leaving them addicted.

Habtamu (whose name has been changed), married and father of two, had been taking Tramadol for six consecutive years and he was addicted for it. He said that since he had begun taking Tramadol frequently, his life has been in chaos.

Habtamu is a pharmacist by profession and has been using Tramadol for six years. Later, after his body had adapted the drug, he began taking pethidine, a tramadol variant. 

He started using the drug because he was suffering from migraine but later, he explains that he became addicted to it. He claims that even while Tramadol reduces pain, treating the pain will prevent you from finding a medical solution and in the process, may even result in loss of life.

The practice has become rife that many people buy Tramadol without having prescriptions. Some of them usually either taking overdosage or using it frequently ignoring the recommendations of physicians, which mainly lead them to addiction.

Various researches, including by the World Health organization (WHO) indicated that people who are taking an over-dosage of Tramadol at a frequent rate could be liable to physical damage and addiction.

Realizing the disastrous effect on the youth who are addicted to the drug, the Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority has included Tramadol in the list of drugs monitored by the Authority.

In its recent statement, the authority passed a directive to strictly control the medicine, and it will only be sold to people with health problems that have a special prescription from authorized physicians.

The statement says that the prescription of the medication will be subject to stringent regulation as the usage of the medicine can result in exhaustion, lack of appetite, severe headaches, sweating, mental unrest, and sleep disturbances.

The authority said that they will make serious monitoring and follow ups on pharmacies and others that have been selling the drug arbitrarily. All regional health inspectors strictly implement the legal and administrative steps in violating the directive.

“…failed to give his children the love they deserve”

Habtamu said that he had been purchasing the drug from both drug dealers on the black market and over-the-counter pharmacies.

Although he decided to stop taking Tramadol and pethidine, he couldn’t terminate it rather he started taking drugs secretly from people who sell them illegally. According to Habtamu the drug is also available in some khat shops.

As he become addicted, his good relationship with his family and the local community has been ruined, he was neglected and failed to give his children the love they deserve from their father.

He was taken to St. Paul General Hospital because of the discomfort the drug was causing upon him, and after he had two months therapy, he was transferred to New Life Addiction Rehabilitation Center, where he is currently getting treatment.

He also said that many young people have suffered serious problems with this medicine and reminded all the people who are users of the medicine that they should not risk their lives by taking it for temporary benefit.

Habtamu shares his advice to people who are addicted, believing that it is possible to break free from addiction with the help of a rehabilitation center by expelling the spirit of alchemy from within. He appealed to irresponsible pharmacies and individuals selling the medicine on the black market to avoid what happened to him.

Experts has been urging that unless the government has taken a significant measure the rising number of young people using Tramadol will be in a dire health consequence.

Asrat Habte Giorgis (MD), a psychiatry specialist at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, who spoke to Addis Standard, stated that Tramadol is a pain reliever drug that should be taken by prescription and should not be sold in drugstores without a prescription.

He said that the drug has a stimulant effect when taken at large quantities and resulted in a significant addiction, Asrat said, “Tramadol can cause fainting and stomach pain”.

According to Asrat, addicted persons could not halt using Tramadol at once, making efforts necessary to gradually reduce the dosage, he added.

“Tramadol is currently influencing many students to drop out of schools”

Sister Yirgedu Habtu

Asrat also emphasized that it is possible to help them get rid of addiction while being given psychological treatment.

“…students to drop out of schools”

Sister Yirgedu Habtu, the founder of New Life Addiction Rehabilitation Center, where Habtamu is getting treatment for his Tramadol addiction, says that they are working to help people who are addicted to khat and alcohol, as well as Tramadol and pethidine.

The center has 12 beds for in-patients and some others have been receiving outpatient cares.

“There are Tramadol addicts in the center and they are being watched,” she told Addis Standard. “Tramadol is currently influencing many students to drop out of schools,” Sister Yirgdu said, “Tramadol abuse affects a lot of teenagers that we realized at the training we offered at schools”.

She added that there are many students who are addicted to the drug due to the pressure of their friends in schools. Students who take tramadol may have trouble falling asleep during school because the drug disrupts their sleep patterns, making them less able to concentrate on their studies.

Sister Yergdu also emphasized that the number of women who use Tramadol is significant that some of them use the drug to relieve the pain they feel during menstruation buying the drug from pharmacies that sell without prescription papers and from the black market.

“Tramadol is a type of medicine that must be used according to the prescription of a medical professional and it uses for two types purposes”

Nahom Girum (MD)

New Life Addiction Rehabilitation Center works in collaboration with St. Paul’s hospital millennium medical college; after first being treated at the Hospital, the addicts will be admitted to the rehabilitation center, where they will be given less amount of drug and counseling.

“It is essential to raise adequate awareness in society that it is simpler to prevent addicts than to help them overcome their addictions,” said Yergedu,

She called those who are addicted to come out of hiding and seek treatment at rehabilitation centers.

Currently people between the ages of 16 and 85 are getting treatments at the New Life Addicted Rehabilitation Center.

Nahom Girum (MD) is a General practitioner and Instructor at St. Paul’s Hospital, Millennium Medical College. He has been creating awareness for many people with the message he shared on his social media page to reduce the effects of Tramadol on the youth. 

“Tramadol is a type of medicine that must be used according to the prescription of a medical professional and it uses for two types purposes,” Nahom told Addis Standard.

He explained that most people do not know that the medicine can lead to addiction, and they use it for a long time without a professional prescription for the purpose of pain relief and using tramadol has the power to make you feel euphoria, give you energy, and make you feel temporary hope, disorientation, and an inaudible voice.

According to Nahom, the drug causes serious side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea, collapsing, stomach pain, kidney and liver damage, vomiting and tremors, and depression.

In addition, those who struggle with addiction are a burden to themselves, their families, and the country because they are unable to attend education or work properly, they are more likely to commit crimes, and have a higher risk of contracting HIV and having an unintended pregnancy due to sloppy relationships, the doctor said.

Using Tramadol without prescription from a physician is dangerous, and young people should be cautious that people who are addicted to the drug cause harm to other people and occasionally kill themselves, he added.

He also emphasizes that many medical experts, who work in a very demanding field, become addicted to Tramadol when they take the medicine to relieve their exhaustion. AS




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