Drug overdose and wrong prescription is very common in Nigeria


One fateful day in march, 2018


Mrs Mary had to close earlier than usual from her shop on this day. She wasn't feeling too well.


On getting home, she thought it not out of place to pay the patent medicine store a visit. When asked what her complain was by the store owner, her reply was fever - many people think all illness is a "fever".


For which she was given some medications which she didn't know what they are for or what they do. Patent medicine stores ( chemist shop ) don’t even want you knowing what you are served. So they can charge you more. The less you know the better, after all "what do you know"? That remains their little secret.


Most times too , people who patronize these ( chemist shops ) quacks are too ignorant they don’t bother asking what medications they are being given. After all anybody behind a counter dispensing drugs is a “doctor” they believe.


So what did she do? She swallowed them in good faith hoping to get some rest when she got home. About 13 tablets in all. Six hours later, instead of getting the improvement she so hoped for, she realized rather that she was gasping for air.


Her normal rhythmic breathing pattern had changed into what seemed like she was drowning, with a hunger for air. Her relatives were shaken to put it mildly. By this time her relatives who knew no better had began to pour water over her head and smear her face with anything that is pepperish. They believe pepperish things are therapeutic - another misleading belief.


Not too long afterwards she fell into a sleep - a coma rather. A coma that lasted for over 72 hours. After 12 hours in the coma with the heavy and extremely labored breathing still ongoing, Members of her family decided it was about time they take her to the nearest hospital.


On getting to a privately owned hospital, though still in a coma, she was commenced on intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy, some investigations were carried out. The doctors there kept her for a little over 48 hours.


Post exhausting all options or rather doing all they could for her with no improvement in her condition they decided it was also time they referred her to a tertiary institution for more expert care. At the tertiary institution, diverse medical interventions continued.


She was diagnosed as suffering from adverse drug interaction and opioid poisoning. Everything was done to resuscitate her; oxygen therapy, continuous monitoring of vital signs, gastric lavage, activated charcoal was administered to her via nasogastric tube.


Unfortunately for her and to cut a sad story short she passed on after approximately 5 hours from the time she arrived the emergency room ( E.R. ) in the tertiary institution. Going through a list of the medications she was served over the counter at the patent medicine store, one would be forced to ask, who could prescribe such a recipe for disaster? Because that's exactly what she was given.


And the answer is not far away, of course it was a quack. They're the only ones who are brazen enough to order :- Tabs prednisolone, Amoxyl, Aspirin, Tramadol, Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Piriton, Vitamin C, Novalgin, Paracetamol all at once.


It's still these quacks that a totally medically ignorant person will approach them and ask to be given an intramuscular "only" injection intravenously and they'll oblige the ignorant patient. Many a ignorant patients have suffered disastrously because who they thought knew better knew nothing.


These happenings is endemic and very prevalent in Nigeria. Working as an emergency room nurse in a tertiary institution you see a lot of victims thronging in with their unbelievable stories that begs the question what is the government and civil societies doing. Many times, one is tempted to think that E.R. staff and other professional health providers have been reduced to cleaners that are left with the task of cleaning after quacks.




Know what medication you are being given at any time. Always ask the dispenser. It's your statutory right. The names and doses should be written on the envelopes.


Do you have any similar stories or experiences to share to enlighten others. Please send your entries