The abuse of drugs among young people on the continent cannot be underestimated. The social, economic and psychological ramifications can be catastrophic for any family and community. Today we observe the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a day in which we should come together to showcase and strengthen our efforts to end the abuse of drugs.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, in 2015 about a quarter of a billion people used drugs. Of these, around 29.5 million people – or 0.6 per cent of the global adult population – were engaged in problematic use and suffered from drug use disorders, including dependence.
In December 1987 the UN General Assembly decided to observe June 26 as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This year the observation runs under the theme, “Listen First – Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe.”
South Africa is considered to be the regional hub of illicit drug trafficking, and the largest transit zone for illicit drugs in southern Africa. The SA National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey (YRBS) reported that 15 percent of pupils in the country admitted to using over-the-counter drugs to get high. The same study found that 11.5 percent of pupils had tried at least one drug, such as heroin, mandrax, sugars (a mix of residual cocaine and heroin) or tik.
Unique to South Africa and increasingly popular in other southern African countries such as Zimbabwe is nyaope (also called whoonga), a mix of some scheduled drugs and antiretroviral medication. In Rwanda, a study conducted by the Ministry of Youth and ICT in collaboration with Kigali Health Institute in 2012 showed that 52.5 per cent of the youth aged between 14 and 35 years had consumed one or more substances at least once in their lifetime.
West Africa is also fighting its own demons on this front. The Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) recently reported that funds from the $85 billion global illicit drug trade is exacerbating insurgency, money-laundering, political instability, international terrorism and wider destabilisation in Nigeria and other parts of the region. The Chairman of the agency, Col. Mohammad Mustapha Abdallah (rtd) also said every $1 billion of pure cocaine trafficked to West Africa earns more than 10 times as much when sold on the streets in Europe
In Kenya, the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) says over 6,000 people die annually from alcoholism while 2.5 million people require rehabilitation.
These trends are not only worrying but also show that drug abuse while being a criminal issue, it has many adverse psycho-social consequences, affecting the health and well-being of young people. The use of drug abuse has been linked to a high prevalence of HIV. Recently the Ministry of Health in Rwanda, unveiled a six month campaign against drug abuse focusing on prevention and treatment of mental disorders. The Ministry has said drug abuse increases the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as a number of non-communicable diseases affecting the liver, heart, kidneys among others.
HIV prevalence is estimated to be at 13,1 percent among people who inject drugs.
To achieve a healthy generation with young people with the potential to lead the continent, Africa should ensure the needs of its youth are addressed. There are a lot of unresolved issues that lead to the abuse of drugs among them lack of education, poverty, unstable family backgrounds and often peer pressure among many other factors. If we come up with solutions to deal with these problem we can achieve a drug abuse free generation.