There is an increasing disorder from the use of Tramadol in eight countries in the ECOWAS sub-region, including Ghana.
According to research, from 2020 to 2022, the percentage of people demanding treatment for the abuse of Tramadol, an opioid, increased by 9% in eight countries, including Benin, Togo, Mali, Niger, Cape Verde, Senegal and Mauritania, where data were collected.
The information is contained in the 2020–2022 West African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (WENDU) Report, which was launched on Monday, November 27, 2023.
The report contains an overview of statistics and trends on illicit drug supply and use in the ECOWAS sub-region.
The research found that 59.1% of individuals demanding drug treatment from opioids used drugs by inhaling and 1.9% only injected drugs in the eight countries that the research covered.
Additionally, 65% of individuals in treatment were between 15-34 years old; 61.8% seeking treatment were students and 23.7% were unemployed.
It also found that 76% were single, 53% had not completed secondary school and 35% had never attended primary school.
The WENDU 2020–2022 report also indicated that 37.21% of individuals sought treatment for cannabis use disorder in these countries.
Dr. Nkereuwem William Ebiti, a resource person, through a virtual session, took participants at the launch through the report, including the implications of the findings.
He stated that the bloc would have to develop strategies to regulate and monitor pharmaceutical opioids to mitigate misuse and diversion.
He also mentioned the need to address the root causes of increased seizures and drug trafficking arrests.
“Allocate resources to accommodate significant proportion of individuals with substance use disorders,” the report said, adding that the bloc should “tailor treatment programmes to the needs of young age individuals.”
The WENDU report, which is the third since 2017, also mentioned engagement of stakeholders, public awareness, financial assistance and affordability, referral mechanisms, prevention strategies, community support and involvement.
The first WENDU report covered 2014–2017, with the assistance of the WENDU focal points, partners and resource persons, followed by the 2018–2019 report.
Mr. Daniel Amankwaah, Drug Prevention and Control-ECOWAS, led participants, both live and virtual, to discuss the report, during which some ideas were shared on the way forward in the drug fight.
Prof. Fatou Sow Sarr, Commissioner, Human Development and Social Affairs, in a welcome address read on her behalf, by Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, Director, Humanitarian and Social Affairs, ECOWAS Commission, commended the efforts in putting together the report.
She said a “credible and current WENDU report is crucial to improving evidence-based drug prevention and control activities both at the national and regional levels.
“In this regard, the ECOWAS Commission puts a high importance on the collection, collation and validation of the WENDU data before it is published.”
The Director-General, Narcotic Control Commission (NACOC), Mr. Kenneth Adu Amanfoh, in launching the report, which came with a policy document, noted that drug usage has become a regional concern across the West African channel and stakeholders must work together to deal with the threat effectively and proactively.
He announced that Ghana is making steady progress in the area of drug demand reduction, citing the Narcotics Control Commission Act 2020, Act 1019.
The Act, according to him, recognises that drug use is a public health issue, so people with drug use disorders are treated with respect, dignity and rehabilitated rather than incarceration.
Ghana is also adopting available evidence-based scientific approaches in treating persons with SUDs.
“Our commitment to combating drug-related challenges is unwavering and the insights garnered from the WENDU report will undoubtedly bolster our efforts. It is incumbent upon us all to utilise this knowledge to enhance our preventive measures, strengthen law enforcement and implement targeted interventions to address the root causes of drug-related issues,” he said.
The Director General remarked that Ghana appreciates and understands the enormous national security challenges posed by illicit drug trafficking on its nationals and that of member states. He assured the gathering that Ghana will continue to work closely with other Member States in protecting ECOWAS borders, citizens and more importantly the youth, who are the human capital.
Meanwhile, he ceased the opportunity to urge everyone in West Africa and by extension, the African continent, to take the issue of illicit drug abuse and its related vices very seriously.