Fresh concerns are mounting over the number of strange illnesses in recent times, developments that NAFDAC has attributed to harmful alcoholic drinks being produced illegally and sold in many parts of the country. ELEOJO IDACHABA reports that the developments are affecting the young adult population.
Some call them energy drinks; others call them super power houses. There are some of the many appellations ascribed to these numerous brands of alcoholic herbal drinks that are currently on sale all over the country.
Of more concern is the fact that these drinks are laced with poisonous substances that can affect the health of the consumers. This reporter’s investigation has revealed that among those that largely consume these substances are young men between the ages of 16 and 30, many of whom have been diagnosed with various degrees of mental malfunction and alert disorders.
It is as a result of this that recently, the National Agency for Foods and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) posted a warning on its website to intimate Nigerians about an adulterated/fake drink currently in circulation across the country.
The alcoholic bitter herb known as Japata Alcoholic Bitters, according to NAFDAC, is more harmful than the one the company that produces it originally submitted for testing and registration with the agency. NAFDAC, therefore, advised Nigerians to be watchful of the herbal alcoholic drink they consume.
This is a great concern to many people because this is the second time within a space of four months that this concern over Japata is being raised.
NAFDAC had stated, “An alcoholic bitters product that is of grave concern is Japata Alcoholic Bitters which was duly registered by NAFDAC, but laced with marijuana or cannabis compared to the registered product that had only ethanol. Through intelligence, NAFDAC was able to shut down the company. This product, when tested in the laboratory, caused the death of the mice within five minutes.
“The alcoholic content was doubled compared with the registered product. The retained samples, kept at the point of registration, did not cause any injury to the animals.
“The product laced with cannabis was said to cause altered state of mind and psychological problems to the user. The owner of the company is on the run and the matter has been shared with NDLEA.”
Other harmful drinks also listed by NAFDAC after their investigation were Five Minutes Power, Gamzaki Tradomedical, Barakallahu, Sabon Karfi and Haonu Laha herbal mixtures which are also currently on sale in many stores and motor parks across Nigeria.
Haonu Laha Herbal Mixture, it noted, is registered with NAFDAC, but laced with unapproved substances that are injurious to the human body. Report has it that a large number of male populations consume alcoholic bitters as regular drinks.
While some consumers claim that the drinks have health benefits when taken, investigation shows that there is really no proof to back up such claims.
Also, this reporter’s findings showed that in many communities across the country, the effects of adulterated alcoholic drinks, such as these, are obvious, especially on the young adult population. While many of the young people have died as a consequence of ailments such as kidney failure, a large number of the men have liver-related diseases and other life-threatening illnesses traceable to those drinks.
In a chat with this reporter, Mr. Obed Nakajuru, a native of Southern Kaduna, but based in Abuja, said in his community, there has been a serious depletion of young adults due to strange deaths, a development no one could explain until it was discovered recently that what they termed strange illnesses were as a result of kidney, heart and liver-related illnesses all traceable to alcoholic drinks that were prohibited by NAFDAC.
“These drinks contain higher amounts of ethanol that is harmful to human health.
Suddenly, many of the healthy looking young men began to shrink in size with some developing pot bellies. From 2019 to date, we have buried not less than 30 corpses because of this strange disease until it was discovered that a certain herbal alcoholic drink is responsible. Apart from insurgency and banditry, fake alcoholic herbal drinks cause the death of young people in Nakajuru and nearby communities,” he said.
The same applies to many communities in Benue and Kogi states; in a rural community called A’Idogodo near Okpoga in Benue state, it’s the same story, according to Peter Enogela, a resident of the area who spoke to Blueprint Weekend.
“That is the common drink in my place right now. To make it worse, they combine it with local gin in an empty stomach. I was shocked when I travelled home early 2022 for a burial only to discover that many of the young men of my age, whom I grew up with, were down with illnesses. When I inquired further, I realised that there is a cartel of fake herbal alcoholic drinks from Enugu state that supplies the drinks for them.
“A close look at those drinks reveals that they are fake, expired and laced with substances like marijuana. Almost all the young men are already addicted to these drinks. It can only take God to change their taste,” he said.
The harbinger of fake drinks
In many motor parks across the country, especially in major cities, these drugs are sold on a large scale. A transporter at the Jabi Motor Park in Abuja who gave his name as Taofeek Araga told Blueprint Weekend that the sale of alcoholic herbal drinks in the park has been a major challenge for them.
“Herbal sellers are the major problems we have in the parks. When you hear of drugs in the parks, the majority of them are from what those women are selling as energy drinks. There is no corner you go to in this park that you will not find these sellers. The amazing thing is that they are mostly women. Few men sell them here.
“We have realised that some of the accidents that occur on the roads are caused by the influence of these alcoholic drinks. The union is aware of what I am saying because we have raised this concern before them. Since they are not doing anything about it, the government should intervene to save travellers,” he said.
NAFDAC on the offensive
To buttress this argument while speaking at another forum recently, the director- general of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said, “We have commenced a nationwide crackdown of all illegal manufacturers and distributors of these herbal preparations with a view to bringing perpetrators to book and minimise the usage of the substance.
“Findings from various operations carried out revealed a dangerous trend in the use of such substances laced with high concentration of tobacco and sometimes cannabis by our populace cutting across all genders and age groups particularly artisans, drivers, Okada riders.
“These substances, when abused, can be harmful to the body organs such as the brain, kidney and liver. The damage to the kidney and liver cannot be overemphasized. This substance can cause irrational thinking, altered state of mind, which if taken by a driver can lead to road traffic accident with the attendant fatality consequences or can lead to criminal behaviours such as rape, kidnapping and murder.”
There is no way of knowing for certain the ingredients contained in fake or illegally produced alcohol which means that drinking it can lead to anything from nausea to blindness and death. Hence, drinking fake alcohol is risky to health and could have dangerous consequences.