Drug Abuse in Africa

                                                 Abuser Characteristics

Burkina Faso
Cannabis abusers age ranges between 20 and 32 years, tend to have no fixed employment and being single.
It has been estimated that around 7 per cent of cannabis abusers are females.  Stimulant and sedative
abuse is reported among males, 20 to 40 year old. About 7.3 per cent of the stimulant abusers are
females.  Volatile solvent abuse is reported among youth, 12 to 16 year of age (U.N. 1989, 1990). 
      Two groups of workers seem to be particularly at risk of drug abuse: farmers and drivers (truck and
taxi) (U.N. 1993). Cannabis is abused by young people, prostitutes and certain petty merchants (Report
     Heroin and cocaine abuse is often associated with tourism and expatriated residents, certain
prostitutes, and some artists (Report 1994).

The age of drug abusers range from 10 to 70 years. Abuse is more pronounced among specific age groups:
volatile solvents, among the 10 to 20 years old; psychotropic substances, among those 15 to 40 years
old and opium, heroin and cannabis, among those 20 to 70 years old. Drug abuse among women was not
reported, except for volatile solvents abuse, which is reported to be rare (U.N. 1989). 
      Volatile solvents abusers tend to be of low education, unemployed and orphans (U.N. 1989). 
      The following occupational groups were identified for being subject to high risk to abuse drugs: taxi
drivers, factory workers, farmers, merchants, tailors, and night watchmen (U.N. 1992).

Cote D'Ivoire
Most registered drug abusers are males (91%) between 20 and 34 years old, followed by 15 to 19 and over
35 years old (U.N. 1993).

Most drug abusers tend to be men, 20 to 40 years of age. Registry data indicate that 5 registered opium
abusers were women. Drug abusers tend to be married and of professional background (U.N. 1989a). 
      According to a sample survey of 5,108 workers, the prevalence of abuse among skilled workers is as
follows: alcohol 23.5 per cent, cannabis and opium 15.1 per cent, psychoactive drugs 2.5 per cent.
Among non-skilled workers, abuse is as follows: alcohol 10.3 per cent, cannabis and opium 7.5 per cent
and psychoactive drugs 0.7 per cent (Al Kott 1991).

Taxi and bus drivers and civil servants are reported to be particularly at risk (U.N. 1993). 
      The chewing of fresh khat leaves is predominantly among men; however, the frequency of khat abuse
among women is increasing (Forum 1993). 
      Cannabis is abused by some urban youth (Forum 1993). The traditional chewing of khat among adults is
spreading to youth (EFDR 1993). 
      According to some reports, consumption of drugs has been increasing among Ethiopian students,
particularly during examination periods.  The general impression is that abuse of illicit drugs such as
heroin, cocaine and cannabis are not widespread among Ethiopian students, who tend to consume khat,
alcohol and cigarette (Report 1991).   
      According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education (1985) on 1477 secondary school students
and 294 teachers, the prevalence of khat chewing among students and teachers, is about the same as in
respective age groups in the general population.  About 44 per cent of the students and 40 per cent of
the teachers abuse khat (Report 1991).

Three types of drug abusers are reported: traditional abusers, males between 18 and 25 years of age in
the capital and in Port Gentil and those who are uneducated, unemployed or delinquent adolescents who
have emigrated to the capital (Mounguengui 1990).

Drug abusers tend to be males (about 70 per cent). Cannabis and methamphetamine abuse among males is
higher and may range between 95 and 98 per cent.  The age of drug abusers ranges between  16 and 50
years. Opiates, benzodiazepines and cocaine tend to be abused by those 25 to 50 years of age, compared
to cannabis and methamphetamine, which are abused by those 16 to 40 years of age (U.N. 1991). 
      Cannabis abusers are reported to be mainly unemployed; benzodiazepine abusers tend to be farmers and
laborers.  Cocaine and heroin abusers are mainly traders, businessmen, and the elite (U.N. 1990).

According to the 1994 rapid assessment, most abusers are males, aged from 6 to 90 years old, with the
majority between 11 and 39 years. About 123 were unemployed and 100 homeless. Another 58 were serving a
prison term when interviewed (Mwenesi Abdullah Halima 1995). 
      According to a 1990 study conducted among 306 drug abusers in treatment in psychiatric treatment, 60
per cent were 19 years old or younger, 33.1 per cent between 20 and 24 years of age, 4.8 per cent
between 25 and 30 years old and 2.1 per cent over 30 years old (Facy F. and Delile J.M. 1990). 
      Male students tend to use non medical drugs while female students use prescription and over the
counter drugs (Wasunna and Wassuna 1973 in Acuda, S.W. and Yambo, M. 1983). 
      The expansion of drug abuse is attributed to the transformation of the Kenyan society due to the
impact of colonial rule, i.e., urbanization, weakening of traditional family ties and increasing
individualism (Mwenesi Abdullah Halima 1995). 
      In Western Kenya, a 1990 study among students aged 10 through 24, suggest that drug abuse is low, even
among high risk groups aged 15 to 24 (table 3). 
Table 3 
"Ever Use" of drugs among students in Western Kenya, by age and type of drug, in 1990.  
Age in years       Cigar-     Alco-      Khat      Cann-      Diaz-         Amp.       Coca-
                           ettes       hol                    abis      epam                  ine
10 - 14                   -          1.1          0.9          0.3            -               -                 - 
15 - 19                1.9          2            2.6          1.4          1.1              -               0.5 
20 - 24                1.7         1.9          2.5          1.6          1.0              -                0.4 
Source: Survey report, drug use in secondary schools in Western Kenya, 1990. 
      Khat abuse is common among all groups but more pronounced among males (89.4%) compared to 10.6 percent
among females, those aged 21 to 30 years (56.9%) and 31 to 40 years old (23.6%). The majority (70%) of
khat chewers had secondary education and held medium level jobs (48.8%). The lower level of khat
chewing among women is attributed to strong norms against women who chew the drug (Haji A.R.J.1983).

In the 1989 prison study, 92.5 per cent of the drug abusers were males, 17.5 per cent were less than 19
years old, 22.5 per cent between 19 and 23 years of age, 23.8 per cent between 24 and 28 years old and
36.2 per cent 29 years or older. A total of 29.7 per cent of the sample were illiterate, 43.6 per cent
had received primary education, 23 per cent secondary or technical schooling and 3.7 per cent had
received further education (Facy and Delile 1990). 
      Among the patients in drug related treatment, most were males (93.6%) and single (80.9%). About 13.1
per cent were less than 19 years old, 30.4 per cent between 19 and 23 years of age, 28.3 per cent
between 24 and 28 years old and 28.3 per cent 29 years or older. About 19.6 per cent were illiterate,
52 per cent had primary education, 21.7 per cent had secondary education and 6.5 with higher education
(Facy and Delile 1990).

The abuse of opium, heroin, cannabis and benzodiazepines is reported to occur in all sections of the
population, in all regions of Mauritius and in all existing social stratas, whether they are employed
or not. Female drug abuse is either non-existent or below 5 per cent of those abusing any drug. Most
drug abusers are 17 to 30 years old (U.N. 1983-1992).  In 1993, 5-10 percent of drug abusers in prison
were reported to be females (U.N. 1993). 
     Groups of workers that appear to be particularly at risk are lorry drivers, construction workers,
textile workers, and hospital staff (U.N. 1993). 
      According to a 1993 Mission Report, roman catholics have major problems with alcohol, while muslims
seem to use relatively more heroin and cannabis than other groups; hindus are reportedly half way in
their use of any substances when compared to Christians and Muslims (Mission 1993).

Opiates abusers tend to be 20 to 30 years of age, cannabis abusers 18 to 60 years of age, sedatives
abusers tend to fall in the 17 to 50 age range and volatile solvents abusers in the 8 to 14 age range
(U.N. 1991).  According to the 1993 Annual Reports Questionnaire, drug abuse is more pronounced among
youth (U.N. 1993). 
      Volatile solvents are abused mostly by pre-adolescents and by underprivileged children. Drug
consumption tends to be more prevalent among the underprivileged (U.N. 1993). 
      Drug abuse is pronounced among males but not negligible among females: the female to male ratio is
estimated to be 1:30 for opiates and cocaine, 1:2 for sedatives, and 1:10 for volatile solvents (U.N.
1991).  According to the 1993 Annual Reports Questionnaire, drug abuse among women is increasing (U.N.

Drugs are abused by all ethnic groups in Namibia.  Drug abusers are mostly males, but it is estimated
that 25 per cent of the cannabis and methaqualone abusers, and 5 per cent of the volatile solvents
abusers are females (U.N. 1992). 
      Most drug abusers are 11-21 years of age (Namibia 1993).  Cannabis abusers tend to be in the 12-40 age
range, methaqualone abusers in 14-30 years of age, and volatile solvents abusers 10-16 years of age
(U.N. 1992). 
      The unemployed out-of-school youth are more prone to abuse drugs.  According to the latest census
figures this group comprises 23 per cent of the population (Namibia 1993).

Drug consumption is reported found in all strata of the society, among the affluent, the top
professionals, high executives, musicians, long distance truck drivers, as well as, sportsmen (Nigeria
1991).  However, most registered drug abusers are males and are between 20 to 34 years old, followed by
under age 15, 15 to 19 and over 35 years of age (U.N. 1993).  A 1992 school survey found the male to
female ratio to be 3:1, and a study on drug abuse in Lagos city found that 80 per cent of psychotropic
substance abusers were males (U.N. 1992). 
      The 1991 school survey found that for cannabis, heroin and cocaine, the age of onset of abuse is above
16 years, while about half of the students who abuse "valium", "reactivan" and alcohol, do so before
the age of 11.  Among the patients admitted for drug-related problems in mental health institutions, 60
per cent were between 21 and 30 years of age (Nigeria 1991). 
      Hospital records revealed that drug abusers were mostly (58 per cent) within the 21-30 years of age
bracket; the majority of them were males (91 per cent) and single (58 per cent).  Regarding occupation,
less than half (32 per cent) were traders, 21 per cent were unemployed, 17 per cent were students, 16
per cent unskilled workers, 10 per cent civil servants and 4 per cent skilled workers (Nigeria 1991). 
      A study carried out in Lagos (1980) reported that cannabis sativa is abused by youths from both
privileged and less privileged socio-economic backgrounds, even as early as the age of 10 (Nigeria
      Although drug abuse is more common among males, research findings show that as from the seventies,
there has been an increasing trend of female involvement in the abuse of habit-forming drugs, such as
alcohol, sedative drugs such as "Valium", "Librium" and "Activan", cannabis, heroin and cocaine
(Womenfolk 1994).

Drug abusers tend to be unemployed, low income earners, drivers and carriers, from urban areas, with
low levels of training or education.  Cannabis and heroin abusers were reported to be in average around
25 years of age (CMO 1989; U.N. 1990).

Drug abusers tend to be young persons between 18 and 25 years of age (U.N. 1987). 
      According to the UNESCO 1988 survey among youth, 12.2 per cent of females and 10.4 per cent of males
take tranquilizers,  2.1 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively take them regularly.  Results from the
study also show that 6.2 per cent of the youth who are 15 years of age or less have taken an illicit
drug; among persons 23 years of age or older, abuse increases to 25.7 per cent.  Drug abuse among
students is lower than among youth out of school. A total of 1 out of 6 boys and 1 out of 11 girls have
already had experiences with an illicit drug.  Among persons 15 years of age or less, 1 per cent have
already consumed a "hard drug" (morphine, heroin, or cocaine). Cannabis is the most abused drug among
males and "pions" among females (UNESCO 1988).

South Africa
According to registries of drug abusers, about 16% of cannabis abusers are women (U.N. 1993). 
      A study of an urban population, aged 14 years and over, revealed that about 65 per cent of the males
and 83 per cent of the females abused pain-relievers in 1990, 5.3 per cent of the males and 0.6 per
cent of the females abused cannabis and 1.6 per cent of the males and 1.7 per cent of the females
sniffed solvents (Rocha-Silva, 1991).

Since drug abuse is considered an anti-social behaviour in Sudan, people tend to deny that they are
drug abusers (U.N. 1991).

It is estimated that 55 per cent of sedatives abusers, 30 per cent of synthetic narcotic analgesic
abusers, and 20 per cent of opiate abusers are women (U.N. 1991). 
      Drug abusers tend to be 10-60 years of age.  Opiates abusers tend to be 25-55 years of age, cannabis
abusers 10-45 years of age and sedatives abusers 20-60 years of age.  The abuse of volatile solvents is
most common among the youth, around 10-20 years old (U.N. 1991). 
      The abuse of prescription drugs is common among professionals such as nurses and doctors (EFDR 1993).

      Drug abuse has been described as a problem especially among marginal groups, who are unemployed (EFDR 1993). 
      Cannabis is mainly abused by street and school youth, as well as by soldiers; heroin tends to be
consumed by urban and street youth; cocaine abuse is prevalent among high income groups; Somali
refugees and town youth abuse khat; petrol is inhaled by street children (EFDR 1993).

United Republic of Tanzania
Most drug abusers are males.  About 30 per cent of cannabis abusers, 30 per cent of benzodiazepine
abusers and 10 per cent of heroin and morphine abusers are females (U.N. 1991). 
      Most drug abusers are between 20-45 years of age.  Cannabis abusers range from 15-50 years of age. 
Abuse of volatile solvents is reported more predominant among the younger age group (12-25) (U.N. 1991).
      Khat is abused mostly by truck drivers and night watchmen. However, khat abuse appears to be spreading
among youth, according to U.N. reports.  Volatile substances are abused by poor abusers, especially,
street children. Heroin abuse is more common among young businessmen or abusers with affluent parents
(U.N. 1991; Tanzania 1993).

Most abusers are males, between 15 to 35 years of age.  About 10 per cent of the cannabis abusers and 5
per cent of the heroin abusers are females (U.N. 1990). 
      Cannabis abuse is prevalent among all social strata, including the unemployed and students (U.N. 1987,

According to the study above, among those who reported any use of intoxicating substances, 42.6 per
cent were less than 19 years old, 41.2 per cent between 20 and 24 years of age, 10.8 per cent between

25 and 29 years old and 5.4 per cent 30 years or older (Facy and Delile 1990).