Opioids in Africa: Cheap and Accessible

Cheap painkillers are the new drugs for the people. On the African continent, more and more people are becoming addicted and the illicit trade in pharmaceuticals is on the rise. Few people think of the legal opioids such as cough syrup or painkillers, which can induce effects similar to those of heroin. The non-medical, recreational use of such drugs has risen dramatically in the last 10 years worldwide. Around the African continent, the drugs are easily accessible and are often smuggled across borders without any medical control. For over 15 years, the UN has warned countries about the illegal, yet increasingly professional trade in pharmaceuticals. “The synthetic opioid problem, in terms of the amounts seized annually, is on the same scale as global heroin seizures,” says Matthew Nice of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODOC).  There are no exact figures, he says, but he and his colleagues recently alerted the UN to the severity of the situation in Africa, which especially affects countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo. The drug that mostly comes into focus is the painkiller Tramadol. “There’s large scale trafficking of unregulated, illicitly manufactured sub-standard Tramadol throughout the region,” he says.SOURCE: DW

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