Science Communication Hub Nigeria

Garba Uthman Sadiq: "Family is a very protective factor against drug addiction"

As part of our project to promote awareness on drug addiction in Nigeria, we are excited to present our interview with Dr Garba Uthman Sadiq (B.Pharm., M.H.P.M., M.Sc., Ph.D., F.P.C. Pharm.), an Associate Professor of Neuro-pharmacology and Toxicology and a Consultant Pharmacist in Teaching Hospital of the University of Maiduguri.

How should we define drug addiction?

Drug addiction is a behavioural syndrome that often results from drug abuse or misuse and is characterised by one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use; compulsive drug use; continued drug use despite its harmful effects; and craving.

Are all drugs prone to addiction?

No. Not all drugs are prone to addiction. Even those that are prone to addiction, have varying addiction potentials.

In your opinion, what makes one go into abusing drugs that often results in addiction?

We must first appreciate the relevance of “reward circuits” in our brains. The reward circuits are critical to human survival. In non-drug addicts, there is natural activation of this system in food taking, sex, success in examination and other daily activities. Unfortunately, in drug addicts, these powerful circuits are activated by drugs. Some of these addictive drugs have strong affinity receptors in the reward system. It is the search for rewards that makes man habitually seek the drugs.

How can one know the likelihood of becoming a drug addict? What makes people vulnerable or likely to get into addiction?

You are indeed asking about vulnerability, a concept that is not fully explored by scientists. However, there are lots of risk or vulnerability factors that have been identified. Similarly, lots of protective factors were also identified. It means we can roughly use the risk factors to estimate the likelihood of drug abuse and addiction. Consequently, we can also use the protective measures on risky individuals to reduce the possibility of falling into drug abuse and addiction. Some important risk factors include genetic predisposition, overall health status, personality trait, risk-taking/impulsiveness, environment, age at first exposure, self-medication, stress, drug availability, social status, peer pressure, and a times even drug awareness. The vulnerability factors interact in a complex dynamic fashion to predict vulnerability.

What are the protective factors?

Examples of protective factors include health status, family ties, self-control, academic competence, anti-drug information, strong neighbourhood attachment, some genetic predisposition, parents, enriched environment, strong attachment with children, enforcement of limits and discipline, and monitoring of children.

How can a Family tie serve as protective factor?

The family is the second most important protective factor as far as drug addiction is concern. Parental monitoring and involvement in children’s life play a major role as a preventive measure. So also discipline and enforcement of limits in the livelihood of children. It is also important that parent institute positive rewarding system in their homes. If someone in a family is exposed to risk factors (example: drug addict in a family or mental illness), the parents must strive to compensate for this risk factors by working on the family and of course working on the other risk factors.

What can people do to lessen the risk of developing addiction when there is a family history?

A lot could be done by addressing the various components of vulnerability earlier mentioned. Example, under social aspects; job provision, skills acquisition, and sanity in the drug distribution system, could perform wonders — likewise, quality drug education and counselling.

How can someone help a family member with drug addiction problem?

First and foremost, family members should establish early identification of offending drug. Once identified, a family member should be taken to a rehabilitation centre for help. Where early identification failed, and the victim becomes addicted, still quick visit to institutional rehabilitation centre is the best option.

In Nigeria, there has been a recent increase in the number of drug addiction, what do you think is the driving force?

I think the main driving forces are enshrined in our social fabrics. Our drug distribution system is beautified by laws and regulations that are only symbolic in the sense that they are mostly not enforced or implemented. There is no stage of drug distribution that is not guided by Nigerian laws and ethics. Also, drug utilisation; from prescription to administration is guided by carefully designed laws and ethics. However, we sparsely followed the regulations. Addictive drugs are readily available in un-authorised centres and are prescribed by almost all categories of health and non-health workers. All these contributed immensely to the mess we found ourselves in. Youth unemployment and thuggery also contribute to drug abuse and addiction in Nigeria.

What methods would you suggest would be good to lower the level of drug addiction in Nigeria?

We can do that by controlling drug availability and drug utility. Edict and ethics guided distribution will sanitise drug availability. A well-articulated implementation of ‘rational drug use’ principles will sanitise utility. Employment and enlightenment on the dangers of drug abuse and addiction will greatly help.

Have you ever offered research findings that contributed to Nigerian policy on drugs of addiction? 

Yes, our work on codeine-containing cough syrup (CCCS) has brought out many facts concerning codeine addiction in Northern Nigeria. The work was supported by two Nigerian agencies: The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) under its Former Director, Professor Karniyus Shingu Gamaniel, and The Education Trust Fund (ETF) through the University of Maiduguri under Professor Mala Daura. Despite the data borne out of the work and the advocacies and campaigns of many other organisations, radical change in policy was only attained when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) hit the world with its documentary on ‘sweet codeine’. So, our contribution to policy change was not solo. It was only in partnership with the great works of other bodies. Again, the change was only possible because of the tremendous political will demonstrated by the Nigerian Minister of Health and the National Assembly.

Finally, what do you have to give as a final advice to our readers?

It should be noted down that prevention is always better than cure as it is always less expensive, and it requires less of other resources. There should be carefully designed preventive measures for each risk factor identified. Preventive programmes should be able to address the followings: preventing drug use by youth; improving educational counselling; promoting prevention programmes; biological and social research supports; and active intervention. In line with the last item mentioned, we do have a non-governmental organisation that focuses on drug abuse, misuse and addiction in Northern Nigeria. One willing to participate or ready to find out more, may contact Dr Garba via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Along with four others, Dr Garba Uthman Sadiq was a pioneer staff member of the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Maiduguri in 2005. He was the Head of Department of Ethno-Pharmacy and Drug Development and the Head of Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and presently the Sub-Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Maiduguri. He has more than 20-years’ experience in teaching students of Pharmacy, Medicine, Nursing, Physiotherapy and Health records. Dr Sadiq has won 4 research grants and published more than 40 articles. He taught Pharmacology, Therapeutics, Toxicology, Ethno-pharmacology and ethics of biomedical research involving human and animals.

This post has first been published on Science Communication Hub Nigeria.


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