Cannabis tops the list of most commonly- used illicit drugs in West Africa, with majority of persons accessing treatment facilities doing so to tackle cannabis-related drug use disorders.
Also, one in five drug users are younger than 19 years , 20 to 29 are most affected by drug use disorders, according to West Africa Drug report.
The report was presented by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for validation by experts from the region.
It shows that the use of opioids, in particular non-medical use of prescription opioids such as tramadol, appears to be growing most rapidly compared to other illicit drugs.
The study also found a link between drug use disorder and unemployment across the region. It, however, remains unclear whether it is the difficulties of finding a job, that makes many young people turn to drugs, or taking drugs that makes it more difficult to retain or to get a job.
The the dramatic increase in tramadol seizures from 17 tonnes in 2014 to about 232 tonnes in 2017 calls for concerted efforts. The fact that more than 60 tonnes of tramadol seized in 2017 were in transit to other countries emphasizes the need for increased cooperation and intelligence sharing among countries in the region, according to the study.
Director, Humanitarian and Social Affairs, ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ube said: “The report provides evidence-based information on emerging trends in drug use, treatment and trafficking to guide policy makers in EOCWAS member states and Mauritania to design and implement adequate responses that address both drug supply and demand.”
Country Representative of UNODC in Nigeria Dr. Oliver Stolpe, who presented the highlights of the report, said: “Preparing this first ever West Africa Drug Report is a major achievement. The collective efforts of the ECOWAS Secretariat, the West African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (WENDU), the EU and UNODC have contributed to a significant improvement of data collection capacities across ECOWAS on drug use prevalence, drug treatment and the trafficking of illicit drugs. For example, in 2017 13 countries were able to collect and report on data relating to persons in drug treatment, up from only five countries that were able to do so in 2014. Moreover, data collection appears to have encouraged the spread of good practices: only four countries reported to administer HIV/AIDS tests to people who use drugs in 2014, 10 countries reported doing so in 2017.”
While the findings of this report may help to shape policies and interventions regarding drug supply suppression, the data clearly calls for even greater efforts in the area of drug demand reduction in West Africa, including the establishment of drug treatment facilities, and capacity building for those who provide counsel and care to people who suffer from drug use disorders.
Head of Cooperation, European Union Delegation to ECOWAS, Mr. Kurt Cornelis, urged stakeholders to look into ways to sustain the system and methodology implemented by the WENDU initiative over the past four years, at national and regional levels.
The report highlights the crucial importance for ECOWAS member states to step up their efforts towards the passing of the Supplementary Act to address the challenges of drug trafficking and drug use in the region as well as to commence the work on a new ECOWAS Regional Action Plan to sustain and build on the achievements under the current action plan, which will expire in 2020.