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170 tons of Tramadol, Heroine, Codeine Opioid seized in West Africa In 2017 – Report

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The first ever report on illicit drug trafficking and drug abuse in West Africa, covering the period of 2014 to 2017, has revealed that cannabis, cocaine, opioids and amphetamine-type substances (ATS), were the main drugs seized in the region within the period reviewed. 

The report was released in Abuja at the weekend through the collaborative efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), with the European Union’s financial support. It disclosed that while there was a decrease in cannabis seizure on one hand, on the other, the region recorded an alarming rise of tramadol seizures that increased ten-fold from 17 tons in 2014 to 170 tons in 2017, indicating an increased non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids.

Following the development, the West African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (WENDU) launched an investigation into the disturbing trend covering the period, and found that the increasing seizures of cough mixtures containing codeine in some countries showed an increase in the non-medical use of prescription opioids.

The WENDU report revealed that, while there was a significant increase in the quantity of controlled drugs seized in the reporting period, the number of arrests due to drug-related offences increased marginally from 3.8 per 100, 000 population (2014) to 4.3 per 100, 000 population (2017). The number of entrants into treatment on account of cannabis use remained stable at an estimated rate of two per 100, 000 population in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

Whereas a significant increase in trend of cocaine use was observed from 2014 to 2017, the report found that heroine remained the most commonly used opioid amongst the people who accessed treatment services.Other findings indicated that illicit drug supply and drug use posed enormous challenges to countries in the region, noting that “there is an increasing need for sustainable solutions to overcome the lack of reliable evidence for policy formulation and evaluation of interventions in the region.”

The report, which provided information on the drug situation based on the latest data reported by ECOWAS member states and Mauritania, aims at shaping evidence-based policy decisions and practice, addressing the social, health and economic consequences of substance use by identifying risk factors for drug use and targets for preventive healthcare in the West African region.


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