Cannabis Tops Africa’s Drug Use as Continent Becomes Key Trafficking Hub, UN Report Reveals

by Louisa Afful
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Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana or weed, is the most used and trafficked drug in Africa, according to the 2024 World Drug Report. The report also highlights the growing issue of other illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and pharmaceutical opioids, turning the continent into a major drug trafficking hub. These substances have infiltrated local markets, worsening health problems.

This information was shared during the regional launch of the World Drug Report 2024 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Accra, coinciding with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Current Situation

The report states that Africa is increasingly a key transit point for drugs, with cocaine from Latin America and heroin and methamphetamine from South-West Asia passing through route to Europe and other destinations. Over the past 30 years, criminal networks have expanded their activities in the region. From January 2019 to June 2024, at least 126.4 tons of cocaine were seized in West Africa, primarily in international waters in the Gulf of Guinea, Cape Verde, Senegal, and Guinea.

This surge in drug trafficking has led to increased consumption and dependency within local communities. Cocaine use is rising, with more people seeking treatment. For example, Niger dismantled two clandestine crack cocaine labs in 2020, and Senegal seized 675 kg of cocaine from a lab in 2021. Non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids, like tramadol, remains high, with over 90% of global tramadol seizures occurring in Africa in the past five years. Harmful drug mixtures, such as Kush, Khadafi, and Monkey Tail, are emerging as public health threats.

Strategies to Combat Drugs

To tackle drug issues effectively, the report recommends that member states invest in prevention and treatment, and implement evidence-based strategies to combat drug trafficking and organized crime. This includes dismantling drug networks by targeting high-level trafficking operations, reallocating resources to focus on key individuals and groups, and enhancing international judicial cooperation.

The report also suggests increasing the scientific testing capacity of regional laboratories to promptly detect and analyse new drug threats. This will help law enforcement and health agencies respond more effectively.

Dr. Amado Philip de Andrés, Regional Representative at the UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa, emphasized the importance of investing in drug prevention to save lives and reduce the profits generated by criminal groups from people’s addictions.

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