The codeine diet isn’t just another hit song by Tiwa Savage and DJ Enimoney. It is an actual diet—an addiction to codeine syrup which millions of Nigerians have been struggling to conceal or quit.


“Nigeria has a drug addiction crisis. Thousands of Nigerians are addicted to codeine cough syrup,” said Godwin Ogbu MD, a drug addiction therapist and researcher at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital.

“Many don’t understand that a codeine diet can destroy a person’s mental and physical health.”

The codeine diet shows the extent of drug abuse in Nigeria


The drug abuse epidemic recently attracted the attention of the BBC. They produced a documentary titled Sweet, Sweet Codeine. The documentary exposed the illegal production and consumption of codeine-based cough syrup. Shortly after the release of this documentary, the Nigerian government banned the importation and production of codeine-based cough syrup.

But this is just a short-term solution. With the porous borders and weak healthcare regulatory system, codeine addiction will worsen except proactive measures are taken to rehabilitate existing addicts.

Getting off the codeine diet– an uphill battle


A survey has shown that many addicts want to get off the codeine diet but many of these people don’t know how to start the detox process.

“Codeine addicts in Nigeria can take steps to come off this addiction. Of course, they can go to rehabilitation centers or they can slowly make certain lifestyle changes—such as consuming detoxifying foods and drinks,” says Dr. Godwin Ogbu.

The following foods and drinks can speed up the detoxification process and help addicts break free from the codeine diet.

  1. Water

If you are trying to get off drugs, it is important to drink the right kinds of fluids. Resist the temptation to turn to alcohol. Water is the best source of hydration for recovering addicts.


“Research studies have shown that addicts need to hydrate their systems. The recommended amount of water is about ten to twelve glasses of water daily,” said Ogbu.

“Water is an effective cleanser, especially when it’s lukewarm. Drinking two to three glasses of warm water first thing in the morning helps to remove toxins from the kidney and liver.”

Water also helps to reduce the intensity of withdrawal.

  1. Eat protein-rich foods

Sustaining the body on a codeine diet leads to the deterioration of the organs and the brain cells.


During recovery, the body requires a lot of protein to repair damaged organs, tissues and cells. If an addict is in the process of getting rid of a codeine diet addiction, they should eat a lot of beans, fish, yogurt, chicken, eggs, groundnuts, coconuts, cashew nuts and tiger nuts.

  1. Eat non-trans, healthy fats and oils

Fats and oils are good for the body of a recovering addict. They help nourish and satisfy the body. A satisfied body is less likely to crave drugs.

“Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids suppress cravings and release happiness hormones. Just what every recovering addict needs,” said Ogbu.

To get off codeine addiction, recovering addicts should eat plenty of wild fatty fish, avocados, coconuts, groundnuts, and tiger nuts.

  1. Eat lots of fruits and veggies to reverse the effects of the codeine diet

Fruits contain high amounts of antioxidants and fiber, which help to cleanse the digestive gut and remove harmful substances. Vegetables are also rich in vitamins and minerals that help boost the immune system.

“Lemons, oranges, limes, bananas, avocados and sour sops are potent gut-cleansing fruits. As for vegetables, the green-leafy variety such as ugu, bitter leaves, garden egg leaves, water leaves and scent leaves (a.k.a ncheanwu or effirin) are the best. Eat many colorful vegetables too. Cucumbers, garden eggs, carrots and cabbages are great sources of fiber and vitamins,” said Ogbu.

  1. Brew and drink fresh or dried ginger tea to wean form the codeine diet

Ginger is good for the liver, especially when one is actively trying to get rid of the excess codeine in the system. The gingerol in the ginger tea will help recovering addicts sweat out residues of the codeine diet.

  1. Cut out unhealthy trans fats and junk food

Foods fried in hydrogenated oils are unhealthy for everyone. Not only do they introduce free radicals into the system, they can also overwork the liver and slow down the detoxing process.

Choose healthier meal options. Eat more plant-based whole-meal foods.

  1. Choose liver-friendly foods

To speed up addiction recovery, eat foods that promote optimal liver health. Examples of such foods include cabbage, ugu, bitter leaves, garden egg leaves, water leaves, lettuce, kale and many other green leafy veggies. Ensure that you eat these vegetables when they are close to their natural state. Don’t overcook your vegetables.

As musicians draw our attentions to the drug addiction problems in Nigeria, experts can use the opportunity to offer help to struggling addicts. Sharing knowledge about addiction recovery is one of the best ways to rehabilitate addicts.

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Photo credit: BBC

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