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Drug abuse threatens peace across West Africa, says UN

Drug abuse threatens peace across West Africa, says UN

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has said illicit drug trafficking and drug abuse in West Africa are a threat to peace and security in the region.

The UN agency also said drug abuse threatened public health, good governance and development on the sub-continent.

In its inaugural West African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use Report, which covered the period between 2014 and 2017, the UNODC said illicit drug supply and drug use posed enormous challenges to West African countries.

The agency stated that there was an increasing need for sustainable solutions to overcome the lack of reliable evidence for policy formulation and evaluation of interventions in West Africa.

The WENDU Report, which focused on drug interdiction, was prepared by the UNODC in collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States and the European Union.

Excerpts from the report read, “The WENDU Report, with a focus on drug interdiction, substance use disorders and treatment, presents the stark realities of the vulnerability of West Africa and Mauritania to illicit drug use, production and trafficking, and its spillover effects as an issue of great public health and safety concerns as well as a threat to good governance, development, peace and security in the region and above.”

Findings from the report showed that cannabis, cocaine, opioids and amphetamine-type substances were the main drugs seized in West Africa between 2014 and 2017.

The report said, “On the one hand, this period recorded a decrease in cannabis seizure and, on the other hand, recorded an alarming rise of tramadol seizures indicating increased non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids.

“Precisely, tramadol seizures have increased 10-fold from 17 tons in 2014 to 170 tons in 2017. Similarly, increasing seizures of cough mixtures containing codeine in some countries in West Africa indicate an uptick in the non-medical use of prescription opioids.”

The UNODC asked governments and other stakeholders in West Africa and in Mauritania to include drug demand reduction as a major health priority and strengthen the health systems for more effective and efficient delivery of health care services.

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