Drug Abuse in Africa

Extent of Drug Abuse in Africa
Regional Summary

Burkina Faso
Abuse of cannabis, stimulants such as amphetamines, ephedrine, and a preparation containing codeine
(sedaspir), sedative hypnotics (immenoctal) and volatile solvents (glues) has been reported for 1989
and 1990. Estimates on prevalence of abuse are not available (U.N. 1989, 1990, 1993).

In 1989, it was estimated that there were 50 opium abusers, 50 heroin abusers, 50 cannabis abusers, 400
psychotropic substances abusers (amphetamines, benzodiazepines, sedatives and hallucinogens) and 100
volatile solvents abusers in Chad (U.N. 1989).

Cote D'Ivoire
According to registries of drug abusers the most abused drugs are cannabis (672 registered abusers),
followed by heroin (169), cocaine (46), and benzodiazepines (19). Other reported drugs abused are
barbiturates, amphetamine and barbiturates (U.N. 1993).

The annual prevalence of cannabis, the most abused drug in Egypt, is estimated at 5 per cent. It is
followed by sedative abuse (2%), amphetamines (1%), opiates (0.5%) (U.N. 1989b). 
      About 8 per cent of the male secondary school students have ever abused drugs (U.N. 1989b). 
      According to a sample survey of 5,108 workers, about 12.8 per cent abused cannabis and opium; of
these, 90 per cent abuse cannabis only.  It is estimated that more than one million workers abuse
cannabis and opium. Psychoactive drugs are abused by workers to a much lesser extent (1.8 per cent). In
comparison, the prevalence of alcohol abuse among workers is significantly higher (20 per cent) (Al
Kott 1991). 
      According to 1993 data, hashish is the most abused drug in Egypt. Government authorities estimate that
up to two million Egyptians are regular abusers.  There is a growing, but still modest problem,
relating to the abuse of heroin and cocaine among affluent young Egyptians. It is also reported that
barbiturates and prescription drugs are widely abused (INCSR 1993).

According to the 1993 Annual Reports Questionnaire, Ethiopia does not maintain a drug abuse registry
(U.N. 1993).  Assessment of the extent of drug abuse is based on indirect indicators, such as data
provided by the Police, the psychiatric hospital and Courts and Customs (Forum 1993). 
      Although the magnitude of drug abuse in Ethiopia has not been studied thoroughly, it is known that
millions of Ethiopians are engaged either in the trade or abuse of khat (catha Edulis) (Forum 1993). 
      A survey conducted in Ethiopia on drug abuse and illicit trafficking in the years 1987, 1988 and 1990
showed that the most widely abused drugs, in order of importance, next to khat were cannabis, heroin
and cocaine (Report 1991). 
      Recent surveys showed that 43 per cent of the patients at the mental hospitals in the country and 10
per cent of outpatients had abused, at least one of the following drugs: alcohol, cannabis or khat
(Mission 1994).

Cannabis is reported to be used in traditional treatment. "Iboga", a plant growing in the wild, which
has stimulating and hallucinating effects, is used in traditional initiation ceremonies. Dependence
among tens of thousands of abusers is reported to be due to psychotropic substances  such as Valium and
Anafril. Amphetamines are available in the capital's street markets and are also sold along rural
roads.  Availability and abuse of heroin are relatively recent and the abuse of cocaine is reported to
be limited (Mounguengui 1990; Gabon 1992a).

Ghana does not maintain a drug abuse registry.  According to best judgment information, it is
estimated that cannabis is the most abused drug (2,000,000 annual and 1,500,000 daily abusers),
followed by benzodiazepines (500,000 annual and 200,000 daily abusers), other sedatives (50,000 annual
and 20,000 daily abusers), cocaine (5,000 annual and 3,500 daily abusers), heroin (3,000 annual and
2,000 daily abusers), and amphetamine and synthetic narcotic analgesics (1,000 annual abusers and 500
daily abusers each) (U.N. 1993). 
      Between 1975 and 1980, a research conducted for the Ghana Education Service and UNESCO revealed
that of the 4216 students interviewed in 35 schools in Southern Ghana, nearly 50 per cent had abused at
least one drug (Preventive Education 1992).

According to a 1994 rapid assessment, alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, khat, amphetamines and other
prescription drugs as the main drugs of abuse in Kenya.
Abuse of heroin, cocaine, methaqualone and
solvents is also reported, but to a lesser extent. In general, drug abuse is not considered a major
problem (Mwenesi Abdullah Halima 1995). 
      During the 1994 rapid assessment, 383 drug abusers were interviewed, using a non-random snowball
sample. The incidence of drug abuse reported, by type, is as follows: 
cannabis (420) (the number exceeds 383 due to aggregation of different types of cannabis abused),
tobacco (300), alcohol (200), solvents (100), khat (24), heroin (19), cocaine (19, methaqualone (7).
Abusers report that they use drugs to cope with problems (350), to feel good (300), to overcome boredom
(200), to gain courage (200) and to "belong" (152). (Mwenesi Abdullah Halima 1995). 
      In a 1990 study conducted among 306 drug abusers in treatment in psychiatric treatment, 46.7 per cent
reported that the primary substance of abuse is alcohol, followed by tobacco (35.3 per cent), "local
herbs" 17.3 per cent and heroin 0.7 per cent. Most of the drug abusers in the study reported abusing
more than one drug. Further, about 4 per cent reported using drugs only once in their lifetime, 44.7
per cent use drugs from time to time, 17.3 per cent abuse drugs daily and 34 per cent several times a
day. It was also reported that about 50 per cent of the drug abusers in treatment considered themselves
drug dependent, while another 34.8 per cent considered their drug consumption abusive (Facy F. and
Delile J.M. 1990). 
      According to a 1982 study among 249 high school students and 138 parents and teachers, in the
districts of Kajiado, Kiambu, Kisumu, Kakamega and Kericho, students consumed alcohol at least three
time per week (32,4%), smoked cigarettes (20.6%) occasionally chewed khat (1.9%) and 2 per cent tried
cannabis. The pattern of drug consumption by parents and teachers is identical to that of the students
(Wasunna and Wasunna 1973 in Acuda, S.W. and Yambo, M. 1983).  
      Findings from a 1990 survey among 4200 students in Western Kenya suggest that use of drugs "ever in
one's lifetime" is low (table 1). 


      Table 1 
     "Ever use" of drugs among students in Western Kenya, age 14-26, in 1990 
                                                      Urban     Semi-Urban    Rural     Average 
     Cannabis                                  2.5          2.1                 1.1         1.9 
     Khat                                         1.8          1.1                  0.9         1.3 
     Alcohol                                     3.2          3.0                 2.9          3.0 
     Tobacco                                  1.1          1.0                 0.7           0.9 
     Tranquilizers*                           2.4          1.2                 0.3           1.3 
     Cocaine                                   0.7          0.3                  -              0.3 
     * Without Medical Advice 
     Sample:  4200 in 19 schools, of which 5 were females schools. 
     Source: Survey report, drug use in secondary schools in Western Kenya, 1990. 
      However, other sources of information have indicated that drug abuse may be more prevalent in some
part of Kenya. Data in table 2 suggest much higher drug abuse in the Coastal rural and urban area,
Kimusy, Busia, as well as in Nairobi and other areas. However, the reliability of the information could
not be assessed.  
Table 2 
Drug abuse among youth in Kenya in 1989 by type and region in percentages. 
                                                     Coast                        Other including 
                             Urban    Rural    Kisumu       Busia      Urban    Urban Rural  periphery 
More than once 
 a week                28.9       6.7       59.4                19.1    13.0      23.3        4.1 
More than three 
 times per week   23.7      7.6        20.8                 48.2        -            -           - 
Ever use               11.1      8.2         9.4                   8.8        -             -            - 
Use without 
 prescription         2.6          -              -                        -              -         -            - 
Use without 
 prescription         7.1       0.3            -                        -               -            -           - 
Any drug to 
 get high               1.7        3           11.0                 11.8          13.5      26.0     11.0 
Source: Dr. Baya Kijana, "Drug Abuse - A Challenge" in Preventive Education against Drug Abuse,
Ministry of Health, 1991. 
      According to a study on khat, conducted in Garissa, in the North Eastern Province in 1983, among key
informants (20), Households (150) and retailers (30), earnings from khat has been on steady increase
and were close to overtaking livestock earnings.  Khat sales and chewing were a very widespread
activity and in evidence all around town. Among khat chewers in Garissa, 45 per cent were daily chewers
and 32% chewed two to four a week. Most chewers chew four or more hours per day. Chewing Khat was
associated with pass time rather than productive activities (Haji A.R.J.1983).  
      Selected diverted prescription drugs are sold without prescription in bus stations and open air
markets, among other crowded public areas. The drugs are used for self medication, which is considered
a cheaper alternative to costly and overcrowded medical services (Wasunna and Wasunna 1973 in Acuda,
S.W. and Yambo, M. 1983).

According to a 1990 study conducted among 454 prisoners, medical preparations were abused by 41 per
cent of the prisoners, cannabis (called also "yamba") by 13.1 per cent and heroin 0.7 per cent. About
17.4 per cent abused a drug once in their lifetime, 49.6 per cent from time to time, 18.4 per cent
daily and 14.6 per cent several times a day. About 34.3 per cent of the prisoners are drug dependent
abusers (Facy and Delile 1990). 
      According to a 1990 study among 46 patients in drug related treatment in a hospital, 51.1 per cent
abuse medical preparations, 33.4 per cent cannabis and 2.2 per cent volatile solvents. About 22.2 per
cent abused a drug once in their lifetime, 48.9 per cent from time to time, 15.6 per cent daily and
13.3 per cent several times a day. About 24.4 per cent of the patients are drug dependent abusers (Facy
and Delile 1990).

According to U.N. 1993, the estimated number of annual abusers of cannabis ranges from 2500 to 5000 and
for heroin, the estimates range between 2000 and 4000 (U.N. 1993). 
      According to U.N. 1985, benzodiazepines and minor tranquilizers daily abuse was the most prevalent
(15,000 to 20,000 daily abusers), followed by heroin (10,000 to 15,000 daily abusers), cannabis (4,000
to 5,000 daily abusers), and opium (400 to 500 daily abusers) (U.N. 1985). 
      Findings of a survey on Drug and Alcohol Problems in the Workplace among Workforce (400
questionnaires), conducted in 1992, by a Trust Fund, show that 37 per cent of the supervisors
interviewed agreed that drug or alcohol is a problem at the workplace, 21.2 per cent of the supervisors
interviewed stated that they have employees who are absent due to problems related to alcohol or drug
abuse, and only 28 per cent of the supervisors confirmed that their company has a prevention programme
at the workplace (U.N. 1992, 1993). 
      Forty per cent of psychotropic drugs are diverted into the illegal market (Mission 1993).

Traditional abuse of cannabis in Morocco is common, although national drug statistics are not
available. Cannabis is abused in its herbal form: "hashish", as a pastry: "maajoune" and in a mix of
tobacco and cannabis, known as "kif". According to a sample survey on drug abuse among 500 students, 14
to 26 years of age, in Tanger, about 66.5% abused cannabis, 10.8% cocaine, 6.4% heroin and 4.9%
prescription drugs. Frequent abuse is prevalent among 11.3% of the students, 18.6% used drugs
occasionally and 8.1% once in a lifetime (Lamasouri 1993).  
      Drug abuse among student, especially, in the region of Tanger is believed to be significantly higher
than elsewhere in Morocco. In addition to cannabis abuse, it is reported that the abuse of sedatives
(barbiturates, benzodiazepines, among others), volatile solvents, heroin, opium, morphine, synthetic
narcotic analgesics, cocaine, coca paste and amphetamines is prevalent but not significant (U.N. 1993).

Cannabis is reported to be the most prevalent drug of abuse in Namibia (20,000 annual and 10,000 daily
abusers), followed by methaqualone (in the form of mandrax preparation) (16,000 annual and 7,000 daily
abusers) and volatile solvents (1,500 persons annual and 300 daily abusers ) (U.N. 1992).  Drugs such as
LSD, cocaine and heroin have been unknown in Namibia before independence but surged thereafter (HONLEA
      A sample survey conducted among 600 school children and 600 parents in 1991, suggests that tobacco is
the most common drug of abuse among parents (42% daily), followed by alcohol (9.5% daily), traditional
brews (5.5% daily), cannabis (or "dagga", 3% daily) and synthetic narcotic analgesics (3% daily). 
Among school children, alcohol is the most commonly abused drug (41% daily), followed by tobacco
(13.27% daily) and synthetic narcotic analgesics (1.3% daily). About 0.5% of the school children abused
mandrax on weekends and 3.3% abused it occasionally (see Table 1 for more details),(U.N. 1991). 
      Ninety per cent of the total prison population in 1992 were drug and alcohol abusers.  Out of these,
97 per cent were males (U.N. 1992). 
      In 1990, it was reported that 15 to 20 per cent of youth had abused methaqualone and cannabis (CMO
Table 1. Type of drugs used and extent and patterns of drug abuse among the adults and school children
(data in italic) of the survey, 1991. 
DRUG TYPE                                   NORMAL USAGE PATTERN 
                                                             (PERCENTAGE USE) 
                                                             Absta-      Occasio-       Weekend      Daily 
                                                             iners         nal use          use               use 
           adults                                         53.8           3.0               1.2               42.0 
           children                                      (83.2)         (1.4)             (2.2)             (13.27) 
           adults                                          49.3           13.8            27.3              9.5 
           children                                       (80.2)         (6.5)            (12.3)           (41.0) 
Traditional brews 
           adults                                           84.7           5.8              4.0              5.5 
           children                                        (94.7)         (3.7)            (1.3)           (0.3) 
           adults                                           91.8            2.8              2.0                3.3 
           children                                        (93.0)          (3.7)            (2.7)            (0.7)  
           adults                                           95.7             3.3             0.7                 0.3 
           children                                        (96.2)           (3.3)          (0.5)               - 
           adults                                           38.3              58.7           -                    3.0 
           children                                        (41.0)           (56.8)        (0.8)            (1.3) 
           adults                                          81.3             18.2           -                     0.5 
           children                                       (88.2)           (11.2)        (0.7)                - 
           adults                                          99.6            0.4              -                     - 
           children                                       (98.8)          (0.7)           (0.5)                - 
Flammable spirits 
           adults                                           99.1            -                0.7                 0.2 
           children                                       (99.8)          (0.2)            -                     - 
Other (snuff for 
adults and hard 
drug for children) 
          adults                                           99.0             0.2              0.2                 0.7 
          children                                        (98.8)           (1.2)            -                     - 
(Source:Reply to the Annual Reports Questionnaire, 1991).

Several special population surveys were conducted in Nigeria but none at the national level (U.N. 1992;
Nigeria 1991). 
      According to a drug survey conducted in Lagos City in 1992, the most commonly abused drugs in Lagos
city are cannabis, heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and alcohol.  Out of 66 persons who claimed to have
abused psychoactive substances, about 80 per cent were males (or 55 cases). Eighty per cent of the
drug consumers were between 18 and 30 years of age (U.N. 1993). 
      Another survey conducted among 2,439 secondary school students, 9 to 25 years of age, in Northern
Nigeria in 1992, found that the prevalence rate of cocaine abuse was 1.1 per cent, heroin 1.3 per cent,
volatile solvents 1.5 per cent and benzodiazepines (particularly "Valium") 3.5 per cent (U.N. 1992). 
      A 1991 school survey in Lagos State (sample size 2,660) showed that approximately 20 per cent of the
students had ever abused drugs and 11 per cent were currently abusing drugs.  Ever abuse of cannabis,
heroin and cocaine was approximately 5 per cent each and current use 2 per cent, 19 per cent had
consumed "reactivan" (current use 6 per cent), and 14 per cent had taken tranquilizers ("Valium")
(current use 9.5 per cent).  Ever abuse rates of alcohol was found to be 20 per cent (current use 11.8
per cent) (Nigeria 1991). 
      According to data from records of 14 out of the 30 psychiatric institutions in the country, collected
by the Drug Demand Reduction Unit of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in 1992, cannabis is the
most abused drug (409 annual abusers), followed by multiple drug abuse (280 annual abusers), alcohol
(137 annual abusers), cocaine (113 annual abusers) and heroin (85 annual abusers) (U.N. 1992, 1993). 
      A 1991 survey on drug abuse among patients in 5 mental health institutions in Nigeria showed that
among the 2,253 patients admitted for mental health care, 6 per cent were for drug-related problems. 
Fifty-two per cent of the drug abusing patients abused only one type of drug and 47.8 per cent were
multiple drug abusers.  Of the patients abusing only one drug type, 30 per cent abused cannabis, 7.4
per cent heroin, 5.8 per cent cocaine, 1.5 per cent stimulants and 7.4 per cent alcohol (Nigeria 1991).

According to arrests data from the Public Ministry, there were 600 annual and 200 daily abusers of
cannabis and 100 annual and 10 daily abusers of heroin in 1990 (U.N. 1990).  Cannabis and heroin were
reported to be the most prevalent drugs of abuse in 1989 also (CMO 1989).

Datura (known as "Katiddatabe" or "Katidiantabי"), a wild plant with hallucinogenic properties similar
to LSD, is reported abused by young persons but avoided by habitual drug abusers (UNESCO 1988). 
      Other significant drugs of abuse are psychotropic substances, locally known as "pions", and mainly
sedative hypnotics, tranquilizers ("Diazepam") and stimulants (UNESCO 1988). 
      In a 1990 survey conducted among 351 prison inmates, 79.9 per cent reported abusing cannabis, 12.5%
medical preparations, 1.1 per cent heroin and 0.9 per cent volatile substances. The frequency of drug
abuse reported by prison inmates is as follows: one time abuse (8.8%), occasionally (54.1), daily
(26.6%), several time per day (10.5%). About 53.6 per cent were considered drug dependent  (Facy and
Delile 1990).  
      According to a 1990 study among 51 patients in drug related treatment in a hospital, 60.8 per cent
abuse cannabis, 19.6 per cent abuse medical preparations and 7.8 per cent abuse heroin. About 6 per
cent abused a drug once in their lifetime, 40 per cent from time to time, 32 per cent daily and 22 per
cent several times a day. About 70.3 per cent of the patients were considered drug dependent abusers
(Facy and Delile 1990). 
      In 1988, a sample survey was conducted among 7,677 young persons, 15 to 24 years of age, 5,585
students and 2,092 non-students. Survey findings indicate that 10.9 per cent of the youth abused
tranquilizers.  About 1.4 per cent of the youth surveyed, abused tranquilizers "often" or "very often".
Further, about 14 per cent of the youth abused at least one illicit drug, 6.9 per cent abused
cannabis, 5.9 per cent abused "pions", 5.1 per cent abused "guinze", 2.1 per cent abused "hard drugs"
such as morphine, heroin or cocaine and 1.6 per cent abused datura (UNESCO 1988). 
      Limited abuse of heroin, cocaine and volatile solvents are also reported (U.N. 1989).

South Africa
The combination of methaqualone and alcohol is reported to be the most frequently abused mixture of
drugs, with 1.5 million annual abusers and 100,000 daily abusers.  Cannabis is reported to be the next
most abused illicit drug in South Africa, with an estimated number of 50,799 annual abusers and 15,000
daily abusers, followed by volatile solvents with 1,132 annual and 600 daily, and sedatives with 1,054
annual abusers. Other drugs abused include narcotic analgesic preparations, such as those found in
cough syrups which may contain codeine, heroin, opium, morphine, hallucinogens, cocaine or amphetamines
 (U.N. 1993).

Cannabis is reported to be the most abused drug in Sudan, followed by Diazepam.  Other drugs abused
include barbiturates, heroin and cocaine.  No data relating to prevalence is available (U.N. 1991). 
      A plant called "Argemone Mexicana" from the papaveraceae family, which grows in different areas of the
country, is reported frequently consumed by natives (U.N. 1991).

Sedatives are reported to be the most abused drugs in Uganda (750,000 annual and 4,000 daily abusers),
followed by cannabis (100,000 annual and 2,500 daily abusers) and volatile solvents (30,000 annual and
1,630 daily abusers).  Opiates, synthetic narcotic analgesics and hallucinogens are also abused (U.N.

United Republic of Tanzania
Cannabis is reported to be the most abused drug in Tanzania with an estimated 42,000 annual and 10,000
daily abusers, followed by benzodiazepines with about 40,000 annual and 5,000 daily abusers.  There are
an estimated 10,000 annual and 5,000 daily abusers of khat, and about 1,000 annual and 200 daily
abusers of volatile solvents (U.N. 1991). 
      Other drugs abused include heroin (100 annual abusers), morphine (50 annual abusers), synthetic
narcotic analgesics (40 annual abusers), and cocaine (40 annual abusers) (U.N. 1991).

Cannabis is reported to be the most abused drug in Zambia, followed by heroin and volatile solvents
(U.N. 1990).  Some abuse of methaqualone has been reported in Zambia (INCB 1993). 
      It is estimated that there were 31,114 drug abusers in Lusaka, the capital city, in 1993 (ICPO 1993).

In a 1990 study conducted among 976 respondents in Primary Health Care Centres (PHC) (21.4%),  
psychiatric services (25.7%), schools (29.6%), prisons (11.5%), elsewhere (11.8%), about 692 reported
 use of intoxicating substances, which include alcohol and tobacco. Among those who
reported any use of intoxicating substances, medical preparations were abused by 3.3 per cent, "African
herbs" 3 per cent and volatile solvents 1.3 per cent. About 14 per cent abused a drug once in their
lifetime, 60.1 per cent from time to time, 20.3 per cent daily and 5.6 per cent several times a day (Facy and Delile 1990).