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From “Codeine Diet” to “Gutter Water”: polydrug use among Nigerian young adults

Emeka W. Dumbili (Institute for Therapy and Health Research, Kiel, Germany and Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Science, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria)
Emmanuel Ezekwe (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria)
Ogochukwu Winifred Odeigah (Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria and Department of Psychology, College of Management, Arts, and Social Sciences, Chrisland University, Abeokuta, Nigeria)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 10 July 2020

Issue publication date: 10 July 2020




The purpose of this paper is to explore polydrug use and the factors that motivate the use of multiple substances among selected young adults.


A total of 23 male and female participants (aged 23-29 years) who use illicit drugs and prescription pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes were recruited through snowball sampling. Qualitative interviews were conducted, and the data were analysed thematically.


The use of drug “concoctions” and cocktails was widespread among the participants. Some used what they called Codeine Diet (codeine-based cough syrup mixed with a Coca-Cola® product or malt drink), while others took Gutter Water (a cocktail of cannabis, codeine, tramadol, vodka and juice or water). The use of Monkey Tail (a mixture of local gin, cannabis leaves, stems, roots and seeds) and petrol mixed with glue and La Casera® (carbonated soft drink) combined with Tom-Tom® (menthol-flavoured candy) was also revealed. Pleasure, better highs, the need to experience prolonged intoxication and the use of one drug to douse the effects of another substance motivated polysubstance use.

Social implications

The findings revealed that the reasons why codeine-based cough syrups are mixed with soft drinks (Codeine Diet) include avoiding social discrimination and evading law enforcement agencies. Results suggest that these drug use practices require specifically tailored public health interventions. Social stigmatization against substance users and the use of extra-legal measures by the police should be discouraged to facilitate harm reduction.


This study represents the first qualitative research to explore polydrug use among an understudied Nigerian population.



We wish to thank the participants for speaking freely about their substance use. Funding: Emeka Dumbili is currently receiving funding from the Alexander Humboldt Foundation, Germany through the Georg Forster Research Fellowship.


Dumbili, E.W., Ezekwe, E. and Odeigah, O.W. (2020), "From “Codeine Diet” to “Gutter Water”: polydrug use among Nigerian young adults", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 95-107.



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