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Health Minister warns of dangers of Tramadol abuse

The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) is placing more restriction on Tramadol use and distribution by registering it as a Controlled substance, Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu announced on Thursday.

He said regular use of Tramadol, even under physician’s supervision may come with side effects like dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, nervousness or slow heart rate or weak pulse.

And an overdose of it could lead to increased blood pressure, convulsion, memory loss, seizures, hallucinations, coma or even death.

Also, taking Tramadol with other unprescribed drugs causes dependence, liver diseases, renal dysfunction or respiratory dysfunction.

Mr Agyeman-Manu gave the caution in an answer to a question in Parliament in Osu, Accra, on the proliferation and abusive use of analgesics, including Tramadol, in some parts of the country.

Ms Felicia Adjei, MP for Kintampo South wanted to know what the Ministry of Health was doing about the proliferation and abusive use of analgesics such as Tramadol in the Kintampo South Constituency.

Mr Agyeman-Manu said consumption of alcohol with Tramadol will “automatically lower your brain activity leading to loss of consciousness, increased depression, brain damage and even suicidal tendencies.”

Tramadol is a man-made (synthetic) narcotic painkiller and is usually prescribed to patients suffering from moderate to severe pain. Preparations containing Tramadol are classified as Prescription Only Medicines (POM).

The approved dosage strengths for Tramadol, according to the Health Minister, by the FDA, are 50mg and 100 mg.

Tramadol is addictive, acts as stimulant and can produce a feeling of intense euphoria comparable to heroin even at a single dose of 75mg.

Also, in addiction, dependence and mental health effects suffered by Tramadol abusers renders them totally or partially inefficient at their daily activities, resulting in low productivity.

“This overburdens the nation’s health care system due to the need for rehabilitation or morbidity and mortality of persons with Tramadol health implications,” Mr Agyeman-Manu, who is also the MP for Dormaa Central said.

Reports from the FDA post market surveillance have suggested scattered abuse of Tramadol by the youth in some parts of the Volta region and other parts of the country, including the Kintampo South Constituency.

The Minister said the Ministry had received many reports of Tramadol abuse since early 2017, and in response to the tip-offs gathered, the FAD strategically conducted swoops in the Northern, Volta and Western Regions, where alarming quantities of unregistered Tramadol as well as expired ones were discovered.

A follow-up swoop at the Madina Zongo Junction in Accra, towards the end of 2017 uncovered 16 suspects selling unregistered drugs including Tramadol. They were arrested and handed over to the police for further investigations.

According to the Minister intensified public education, product quality and safety monitoring at educational institutions, markets, beaches, transport terminals and their environs have confirmed increased and routine abuse of Tramadol by the youth, market women, commercial vehicle drivers and their mates.

With the exception of market women, who claim they take it for relief from body aches, the others knowingly used the drug for recreational and aphrodisiac purposes by lacing energy enhancers and alcoholic beverages with it.

Commercial vehicle drivers who lace energy enhancers with Tramadol stay wake for long hours of driving and end up masking their cognitive and alertness that could lead to fatal road accidents.

Mr Agyeman-Manu said the FDA had strengthened follow-up inspections to monitor the distribution records of importers and manufacturers of Tramadol.

It has amended the label change on Tramadol products to caution on its addictive tendencies, and ensured that it would only be sold with the submission of a prescription.

The FDA is collaborating with the Pharmacy Council to restrict Tramadol display on the shelves of Community Pharmacies and ensure strict enforcement on distribution as controlled drugs.

It has also intensified public education on social media platforms and conducting on-going public education at public places.

Mr Agyeman-Manu said swoops were being carried on illicit Tramadol products; and the FDA has developed a research proposal on the extent of abuse of Tramadol and Codeine containing cough syrups awaiting ethical approval to collect data.


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