Africa’s growing drugs problems

Posted on December 9, 2016 12:18 am

African countries are still poor and poverty is widespread with more than three quarters of the population living in impoverished conditions. As a result, drug addiction has driven illicit drugs market barons to target the poor communities mainly in low income neighbourhoods of urban areas. While still in the midst of an Marijuana epidemic, African countries may be facing another equally damaging drug problem as heroin addiction seems to be growing threefold annually. With the spotlight on marijuana use, the rise in heroin and cocaine addiction has largely occurred under the radar. Heroin and cocaine use in Africans countries are peaking up at a time when discarded needles can be seen in the streets, concerns about the spread of blood borne diseases are high, and the mainstream media is spreading outrage about crime and violence due to the drug. However, after a sharp increase in supply, people who are addicted to heroin and cocaine are also switching to other drugs like Ice The current ice epidemic can at least be in part attributed to the heroin and cocaine drought. African drug market is just like any other market, when one drug’s supply is diminished, an increase in supply of another steps up to take its place.According to a confidential African Drug Report whose copy I have, opium cultivation in DR Congo and other parts of Central Africa has persisted and even increased largely in DR Congo. Especially in Eastern DR Congo, opium poppy eradication efforts are non existent. The withdrawal of UN troops in some areas of the country has led to local farmers being pressured by the militias to focus on opium production instead of crops, which they were previously encouraged to grow.While increased supply is certainly a factor in drug users switching to heroin and cocaine, there is another potential problem which could be contributing to more people picking up the needle that has gone largely unreported in light of the mainstream media hype about other drugs like cocaine, heroin and marijuana.

Prescription drug addiction in the past five years has also become a major concern in African countries, and has seen an triple increase in rate of prescription pill addiction. An increase in the availability of prescription opiates such as oxycodone, without concurrent public education about the addictive potential of these drugs, has led to more and more cases of prescription opiate addiction. With the price of heroin, cocaine and marijuana going down, and the price of attaining prescription opiates going up, more people are likely to switch from their current prescription opiate addiction to heroin and cocaine addiction.Cocaine, ice and heroin are powerfully addictive drugs and the tables may be turning again to a point where they may surpasses marijuana as Africa’s most problematic drug. The process of changing drug trends is a reminder that there is no one drug problem and people struggling with addiction will change their drug of choice based on availability. It is addiction that is at the heart of the problem and addressing and preventing addiction compassionately and effectively is part of the solution.Heroin and Cocaine have held the spotlight in the past as a feared public health crisis because the negative effects of use are severe and life threatening, and the potential for addiction is very high. Early intervention can increase the chances that someone will recover from heroin and cocaine addiction. This can start with learning to recognise the early warning signs of heroin use such as pinpointed pupils, slow breathing, nodding in and out of wakefulness at odd times, and of course finding drug paraphernalia.

Also, recognising and getting treatment for a prescription opiate addiction early on could help prevent people from turning to heroin, which is a more dangerous and difficult problem to treat.Ice also known as Crystal meth is also in the spotlight for being an equally devastating and addictive drug. Without treatment, both heroin, cocaine and meth addiction can be deadly as South Africa has witnessed. All addictions are serious and effective treatment options are one key to solving overall drug related problems such as crime, loss of productivity, and death. Addiction treatment sometimes involves methadone maintenance and other replacement therapies which are hardly available in African countries. However, the most effective treatment for heroin, cocaine and Ice addiction can be found at addiction treatment centres which also sadly, in Africa barely exist. In severe addiction cases reported in Nigeria, addicts are required to spend at least a short time in residential rehab before finishing their treatment in an outpatient centre closer to home. Because of the shortage of inpatient treatment beds in Kenya, many Kenyans are travelling to South Africa for intensive inpatient addiction treatment.The number of Africans dying because of drug addiction has been underreported and the current estimates show an average 2,900,000 Africans will die in 2016 as a result of the problem.Thats half of Finland’s population wiped out in a year yet few countries seem to care about the problem. To make it worse, ex security servicemen and women are the main drug traffickers in the continent and those serving in powerful agencies like intelligence, military and police are aiding trafficking unabated.

Contador Harrison