By - Adedoyin Shittu
This generation has a serious drug problem, and the use of hard drugs cut across all social strata, with children from both rich and poor backgrounds deeply into it. June 26 was the United Nation’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and according to reports, the drug problem in Africa is extremely serious, with drug usage reported as being at twice the world norm. Over 15% of Africans population have a drug problem. The UN’s drug agency estimates there were more than 34 million cannabis users and 1.8 million cocaine users in west and central Africa in 2016. This number increased in 2018 and unlike expensive narcotics like cocaine, opioids such as codeine and tramadol are more easily accessible as they mostly cost less than $5. There are some dangerous mix done by Africans to increase the potency of the drugs and also to increase the time before it wears out.
Also many Africans who cannot afford these drugs have turned to a range of unconventional concoctions such as; smoking lizard dung and sniffing urine, petrol, soak away toilets, fumes and fermented sewage. All these for a cheap high. There is another method called “Bluetooth” common in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. Drug addicts inject themselves with blood drawn from an already high user using syringes.
Crucially, the UN agency also estimates that in the continent, only one in 18 drug users with addiction issues have access to appropriate medical treatment.
There are reports that the age of use of substance abuse has gone as low as 7 years, this means that the children in primary schools are already involved in this deadly act.
Why are more Africans taking drugs
Simple, countries in the continent have failed the youth. A self-perpetuating cycle of poverty and unemployment in the continent is fanning the flames of drug abuse. Things are not working as it should, African nations economies are collapsing and the consequence is mass unemployment and underemployment of today’s youth. This has led to a deadly wave of depression in many and they seek solace in drugs. This rise in drug abuse has resulted in dire social and economic consequences for all those involved.
As drug abuse spreads, crime and other social vices have been rising. The lack of adequate care facilities for users have also played a huge part in the speed with which this epidemic has taken hold.
Major drugs that are abused in Africa
Cannabis: also known as marijuana, yarndi, pot, weed, hash, dope, gunja, joint, stick, chronic, cone, choof, mull, among other names, is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical or recreational purposes. The drug is illegal in most countries in Africa. It can be smoked, eaten or vaporized and it affects every individual differently. Even the same person may have a different experience on separate occasions or over the course of their life.The effects of cannabis may be felt immediately if smoked, or within an hour or two if eaten. Cannabis is the most widely used drug in Africa and worldwide. It is cheaply available.
Opioids: This is a generic term applied to opiates and their synthetic analogues with actions similar to those of morphine. Therefore, opioids are commonly used as painkillers, for the treatment of acute and chronic pain, and as an anaesthetic during surgery. Herion is also an opioid.
Synthetic opioids are structurally diverse and include a variety of substances including a number of fentanyl derivatives, methadone, and buprenorphine. They work by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain cells, this releases signal that block your perception of pain. This area of the brain affects instinct and mood. The drug target this system and causes large amounts of dopamine to be released in the brain. The flood of dopamine causes a “high.” It’s one of the main causes of drug addiction.
The feelings of pleasure that result from taking an opioid can make people want to continue experiencing those feelings, which can contribute to psychological dependence on the drugs.
At lower doses, opioids can make people feel sleepy, but at higher doses of the drugs, it can slow your breathing and heart rate, which can lead to death. Opiods were responsible for two thirds of the resulting death from drug use in 2017.
Several West African countries have reported that tramadol, codeine and morphine is one of the most widely drugs in this family.
Tramadol was initially developed by the German pharmaceutical company Grünenthal under the name “Tramal”. When the original patent expired, Indian generic producers started manufacturing the drugs on a large scale for the African market. Chinese, Nigerian and Ghanaian companies followed suit.
Ghana’s food and drug agency have tried to regulate the Tramadol imports. But the effectiveness of these measures depends on shutting down transit routes in neighboring Benin which was named the world’s second largest destination for Indian Tramadol in 2016. Benin shares a border with Nigeria and last year November, Nigerian officials seized over half a billion tablets of Tramadol in two high-profile raids at the country’s biggest port. Sadly the inflow of these opioids is not limited to Nigerian alone either. According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), west, north and central Africa jointly account for 87% of all pharmaceutical opiates seized globally
In Ghana, Tramadol commonly called “Tramore” is used as a potency enhancer. In Gabon, it is called “Kobolo” and it is common among students, who use it during examination to enhance performance. In Sudan, workers add a tablet of Tramadol to their tea to help them endure their physical work.
Codeine also an opioid is present in cough syrup and it is thoroughly abused allover Africa, in Nigeria despite that it has been banned in cough syrup, an average of 3 million bottles are still being consumed in the Northern part of the country alone. Codeine syrup is commonly mixed with soft drinks and often consumed, while some users drink the syrup alone.
Africans also abuse solvents or inhalants such as petrol, ethanol, methylated spirit among others just to get high.
Side effect of substance and drug abuse
Abuse of drugs will lead to brain changes overtime and this interferes with the user’s ability to make voluntary decisions. People who persistently abuse drugs will often experience an array of social problems and not only health-related problems. Overtime, a drug abuser becomes a liability to the family members, the community, and the entire society.
Health consequences of abuse of drugs include; memory loss, anxiety, depression, mental disorder, organ damage, stroke, cancer, fertility problems, respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal disease, and ultimately it can lead to loss of life either due to overdose or prolonged use.
Illicit drug use also poses risks for pregnant women and their babies. Pregnant women who use drugs may be more likely to harm the fetus. Drug use can lead to premature birth or low birth weight. It can also cause the baby to have withdrawal symptoms (sometimes in the form of neonatal abstinence syndrome), birth defects or learning and behavioural problems later in life.
Dangerous Mixture of drugs taken in Africa
Constant use of a drug reduces it effect on the user therefore for quicker and stronger effect, drugs are not usually abused in isolation, but they are combined with other drugs (synthetic or natural) or alcohol to increase their potency. The term “Science Student” refers to persons who mix intoxicating substances of various kinds to achieve an intense high that they can vary to suit their desires.
These are some common lethal mixture taken in the continent.
Monkey tail also called Nokia by some is very popular in Nigeria, it is a mixture made of ogogoro (local gin) left to brew in igbo (cannabis leaves, stems, roots or seeds) for a few days or more, producing varying units of intoxication for the user. Sometimes it can be flavoured with fruit concentrate. It is seen by Nigerians as popular masculine drink. Street boys abuse it recklessly to give them street boldness and also to face anybody on the street while the upper class in the social structure most likely drink it responsibly. It is called “manpower by some and taken by men in order for them to last longer during sex.
Lean: This is common in South Africa and it is a homemade concoction of codeine (as contained in cough medicines), Sprite, candy and sometimes alcohol. It is typically sipped out of a double-stacked Styrofoam cup.
Nyaope: Also common in SOuth Africa, this is one of the most lethal combinations in the world. It contains dagga, heroin, antiretroviral drugs, rat poison and acid.
Scooshes: A popular Nigerian mixture made from a blend of Zobo, cannabis, Codeine, and local rum. This drink is served at various bars, it can even be seen sold in lovely packages at posh clubs and drink spot across the Lagos metropolis
Paraga common also in Nigeria, this is a combination of roots marinated in ethanol and sometimes “Ogogoro”, a locally made gin. It is believed that paraga can cure certain ailments which include malaria, typhoid and pile. Some of the drinks are believed to be cures for loss of libido
Gutter Water is a mixture of codeine, tramadol, rohypnol, cannabis and water or juice and it is common in Nigeria.
Some young adults are also turning to crude concoctions as alternatives, including smoking lizard parts and dung as well as sniffing glue, petrol, sewage and urine as inhalants.
Some mixture do not have name but young Africans experiment with different things just to get high, a popular mixture prepared in Nigerians is a cocktail of medical grade methylated spirit mixed with Coca-Cola.
Africa is losing the war against this scourge as drug abusers continue to be on the rise in the continent. The menace has eaten deep into the social-ethnic fabric of youths and young adults despite all attempts the government is using to curb the scourge. The government have to do more before the youth of this generation is totally lost in this craze.
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