Seizures of Tramadol drug increased ten-fold from 17 tonnes in 2014 to 170 tonnes in 2017 in West Africa, according to West African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (WENDU) Report (2014 – 2017).
Tramadol is a unique prescription drug used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain, but abused by people, especially youths, to achieve mostly negative goals, causing grave dangers to the health and psyche of the abusers.
The WENDU Report, released on Oct. 30, was prepared through collaborative efforts of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), received financial support from European Union.
The report is the first-ever regional report on illicit drug trafficking and drug abuse in West Africa.
A statement by Mr Sylvester Atere, the UNODC Outreach and Communications Officer on Thursday in Abuja, quoted the report as indicating that “there was increase in seizures of cough mixtures containing codeine in some countries in West Africa.
“The seizure of codeine indicated an uptick in the non-medical use of prescription opioids.’’
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others.
The UNODC officer said that the main findings of the report showed that cannabis, cocaine, opioids and amphetamine-type substances (mainly methamphetamine) were the main drugs seized in West Africa from 2014 through 2017.
On one hand, he said, the period recorded a decrease in cannabis seizure, while on the other, an alarming rise of tramadol seizures, indicating increased non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids.
Atere stated that while there was significant increase in quantity of controlled drugs seized during the period under review, the number of arrests due to drug related offences also increased.
He noted that the number of arrests also increased marginally from 3.8 per 100,000 population (2014) to 4.3 per 100,000 population (2017).
He added that “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.
“However, a significant increase in trends of cocaine use was observed from 2014 to 2017; Heroin remained the most commonly used opioid among people who access treatment services.
“Although the use of heroin and other opioids, including tramadol was relatively less common than the use of cannabis, they were most commonly associated with more harmful consequences of drug use.’’
According to him, almost 18 per cent of persons who accessed drug treatment and rehabilitation services in West Africa in the reporting period are aged 10 to 19 years.