Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)More than two million bottles of cough syrup containing codeine are being recalled to stop widespread abuse of the drug, the Nigerian health ministry has said.
The recall is based on recommendations from a recent committee report from anti-drug abuse agencies in the country, Christiana Adeyeye, Director- General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control told CNN Monday.
"We asked all pharmaceutical companies producing codeine-cough syrups to recall the drugs. It was painstaking process that took six weeks but it is part of the steps we are taking to tackle codeine abuse in the country," Adeyeye said.
Codeine, an opioid pain reliever, is the second most commonly abused prescription drug in Nigeria, a 2016 report Nigerian Epidemiological Network on Drug Use found.
Analysis of opioid users in 12 treatment centers in the country showed that 69% had used tramadol, 21% had used codeine and heroin accounted for only 2% of admissions, the survey found.
The drug came under scrutiny last year after Nigeria's Senate claimed around three million bottles of codeine-based cough syrup were consumed daily in two states in the north of the country.
In March, Nigeria's anti-drug agency said its officials had intercepted 24,000 bottles of unregistered cough syrup in a single raid in Katsina, a state in northern Nigeria, local media reported.
Codeine-based cough syrups are commonly abused alongside prescription drugs like tramadol by young Nigerians, according to health officials in Nigeria.
"Even teenagers and young adults are abusing prescription drugs like tramadol, rophynol, codeine-cough syrups. Some are smuggled into the country as unregistered products," Adeyeye said, while calling for stricter punishment for drug smuggling in the country.
Marcus Odiegwu, a 19-year-old student, told CNN he combines several bottles of codeine-based cough syrups with crushed tramadol tablets to get high.
"I had friends that were taking codeine at that time. I saw the aftermath, and I liked it," Odiegwu said. "They will go off and on just like that. So I decided to try it one night, it felt cool, and I continued," he told CNN.
"I can do some crazy things when I am angry, but I don't take things personally when I take codeine. You might offend me, but I am too relaxed to bother," the student added.
Opioids such as morphine and codeine are naturally derived from opium poppy plants more commonly grown in Asia, Central America and South America, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They bind to receptors in the brain and spinal cord, disrupting pain signals. They also activate the reward areas of the brain by releasing the hormone dopamine, creating a feeling of euphoria or a "high."