Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Africa



Extent of Drug Abuse

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).

Abuser Characteristics

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).

                                                                     Regional Variations

Drug abuse is more common in the urban areas than in rural and semi-rural areas (U.N. 1989a, 1989b).


An increase in opiates abuse has been reported (INCSR 1993; UNDCP CPF 1993). An increase in the abuse of cannabis and psychotropic substances such as amphetamines, barbiturates, methaqualone and benzodiazepines has been also reported (UNDCP CPF 1993). Earlier reports have also suggested a large increase in the abuse of all drugs in 1989 (U.N. 1989a).

            Abuse of "hard" drugs such as heroin is reported to be increasing among young Egyptians (INCSR 1993).

Mode of Intake

Heroin, amphetamines and stimulants are reported to be injected and sniffed, and opium is injected. Cannabis is smoked. Tranquilizers are reported to be ingested (U.N. 1989a, 1990).


Increases in criminal activity, family disruption, road accidents and violence were attributed to illicit drug abuse (U.N. 1989b).


National Strategy

A National Council for Drug Dependency was established, with representatives from a broad range of disciplines such as health, social, environmental, religious and youth affairs. The Council has members from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior. The main task of the council was to revise the existing narcotic law and introduce amendments (Gad et.al., 1989).

            Egypt has also signed bilateral and multilateral conventions for strengthening direct co-operation with several countries.  Since 1930, Egypt has participated in UN narcotics control activities, the League of Nations, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN Sub-commission on Illicit Drug Traffic and Related Matters in Near and Middle East and HONLEA Africa (UNDCP CPF 1993).

            A multisectorial project focused on law enforcement, as well as, on prevention and treatment and rehabilitation was initiated in 1993.  Another law enforcement project to complement previous UNDCP assistance in this sector and to extend the mobility of the Anti-Drug General Administration (ANGA) also started in 1993.  The possibility of preparing a Masterplan in collaboration with the Government is being considered (SPF 1993).

            Egyptian laws severely penalize drug abusers, including capital punishment for both producers and traffickers of "hard" drugs such as heroin.  Egyptian laws also provide for the seizure of "unexplained" assets.  The law is not specifically designed to deal with narcotics activities, but drug enforcement officials can refer suspects to a special prosecutor who determines whether the evidence merits asset seizure.  Seized property can be held for up to five years and then is returned if the accused has not engaged in further suspected illegal activities. The Government of Egypt maintains an active interdiction programme at Cairo International Airport, but has no programme to interdict shipments passing through the Suez Canal (INCSR 1993).

            In 1990, a multisectorial project was signed by the government and UNDCP.  Its four main objectives are: (a) to support the implementation of a national drug abuse control plan; (b) to increase public awareness about the harmful effects of drug abuse and trafficking on the individual and community, using the system of Social Defence Clubs; (c) to provide national institutions with adequate facilities for treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers; (d) to enhance control over pharmaceutical containing narcotics and psychotropic substances.  The project's overall objective is the reduction of illicit drug consumption through prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programmes and through adequate control measures for narcotics and psychotropic drugs (UNDCP CPF 1993).

                                                  Structure of National Drug Control Organs

The central government unit responsible for liaison and coordination of national drug control policy is the Central Administration for Pharmaceutical Affairs within the Ministry of Health which is also the competent authority for the issuance of import and export authorizations and certificates.



                                                                      Treaty Adherence

Egypt is party to the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.


                                              Measures Taken with Respect to Drug Control

Recently enacted laws and regulations:
None reported.

Licensing system for manufacture, trade and distribution:
There is a government-controlled licensing system. No manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances was reported for 1992.

Control system:
(i) Prescription requirement: There is a prescription requirement for supply or dispensation of preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
(ii) Warnings on packages: The law requires warnings on packages or accompanying leaflet information to safeguard the users of preparations containing narcotic drugs but not on those containing psychotropic substances.
(iii) Control of non-treaty substances, if any: None reported.
(iv) Other administrative measures: None reported.

                                                                       Social Measures

Penal sanctions related to social measures: In 1992, courts did not apply measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation or social reintegration for a drug-related offence.

Other social measures: None reported.


                                                    DEMAND REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

            In response to increasing needs in the fields of drug abuse prevention and the treatment and rehabilitation of drug-dependent persons, the Government of Egypt has taken several decisive steps, including the establishment of a national coordination council for drug abuse matters and a special committee for treatment and rehabilitation (SPF 1993).

Primary Prevention

Mass media actively promote drug prevention programmes (U.N. 1989a).

            Drug awareness programmes target different levels of education (in schools and universities) (U.N. 1989a).

            Community level prevention activities have been undertaken by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs.  Intensified activities aim to increase the awareness of drug related harms among community leaders, as well as the community level. Frequent visits to the Social Defense Club of the Ministry of Social Affairs are organized for drug abusers (U.N. 1989a).

            PRIDE International of Egypt, the only private organization in the country devoted to prevention, conducts broad public awareness campaigns.  In 1993, a drug-free work-place programme for factory managers and employees was planned to be implemented by this organization (INCSR 1993).


Treatment and Rehabilitation

The number of drug dependent abusers receiving treatment in psychiatric hospitals has increased from 157 abusers in 1982, to 1,193 in 1988, and decreased to 995 in 1989, according to the Ministry of Health, Mental Health Department (U.N. 1990).

            In 1990, 308 opiate abusers and 134 abusers of other drugs were treated. Treatment is based on the motivation to quit drug abuse (U.N. 1989a).

            Government treatment services are available in Alexandria and Cairo. Each city has two treatment facilities, one free of charge and the other at a reasonable cost. Each facility has 70 beds. A newly established unit has also been opened, with treatment being offered at a reasonable cost. Non-governmental treatment is also available through the Central Association for Addressing Alcohol and Drug Addiction, where treatment is offered at very low cost. Arrested drug abusers can be sentenced to compulsory treatment at one of the governmental treatment facilities (U.N. 1989b).

                                                      SUPPLY REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

Arrests, Convictions and Types of Offenses

In 1989, 10,956 persons were arrested and 4,095 were convicted for illicit drug possession for trafficking (U.N. 1989b).


In 1992, 770,004 units of cannabis plants, 7,985.258 kg of cannabis resin, 21 units of cannabis seeds, 0.292 kg of cocaine (base and salts), 52.029 kg and 0.095 l of heroin, 0.226 l of morphine, 7.620 l of opiates, 0.018 l of liquid opium, 3,783,463 units of opium (plants and capsules), 1,037 units of LSD and 299.983 l of stimulants were seized (U.N. 1992).

            In 1991, about 3.8 million units of opium plants and capsules were seized, for 1990, the total was 4.7 million units. About 50 kg of opium, raw and prepared, were also seized in 1991 (Other 1990, 1991).

            About 1,325.538 l of stimulants were seized in 1990, compared to 536.430 l in 1991 (Other 1990, 1991). 

            Heroin seizures at the Cairo International Airport, from West African couriers in transit between Bangkok and Lagos have declined. This is attributed to the ANGA airport interdiction programme, supported by DEA, which is believed to have forced traffickers to seek alternative routes.  The programme is supported by an INM-procured X-ray machine and a United States of America trained drug-detecting dog and handler team (INCSR 1993).

            Within the last ten years, ANGA (Anti-Narcotics General Administration) has trained all branches of the Egyptian anti-narcotics agencies, including their own staff, customs, coast and border guards.  In total, 22 training courses have been conducted for approximately 500 students.  This organization constitutes Egypt's leading drug law enforcement agency with country-wide responsibility, through its regional branches and considerable human resources.  To combat the changing drug trafficking trends ANGA has opened an additional 8 regional branches to cover the recently opened Libyan and Sudanese borders (UNDCP CPF 1993).

                                                                  Supply Source of Drugs

Egypt's geographical location makes it an ideal transit area for illicit drugs en route from producing countries in Southeastern and Southwestern Asia to consuming countries in Africa, Europe and North America through the Suez Canal and via Cairo International Airport.  Illicit drugs are smuggled into Egypt mainly in the following ways: (1) by sea across its coasts and Ports on the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Suez Canal Gulf; (2) by land across its international borders from East, West and South; (3) by air through the country's several airports.

            Recently, an increase in transporting heroin consignments from Turkey to Libya by air and from there to Egypt by land has been observed.  In addition, a new route has been discovered for the smuggling of illicit drugs from Karachi into Cairo via Lagos and Dubai (UNDCP CPF 1993).

            Lebanon is the principal supplier of Cannabis for domestic Egyptian consumption (INCSR 1993).
The Gulf War (1990-1991) had a remarkable effect in shifting the smuggling routes of huge Lebanese cannabis consignments from Egypt's Eastern coastal areas and borders over to its Northern and Western coasts.  Through the porous Libyan land border, drugs are smuggled into Egypt, despite the efforts of the drug enforcement agencies (UNDCP CPF 1993).

            Egypt is not a major drug producing country.  Domestic cultivation of opium poppy is almost entirely restricted to the arable land along the Nile River.  The Government of Egypt conducts a yearly eradication programme during the winter harvest.  The fertile Northern Delta poses the greatest potential for significant cultivation, but its dense population and good communication, discourage large-scale, clandestine cultivation (INCSR 1993).

            Cannabis is the most cultivated drug in Egypt (UNDCP CPF 1993).


References and Notes

Al Kott 1991.  "Drug and Substances Abuse Among Egyptian Workers- Model Programmes for the Prevention of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Among Workers and their Families".

U.N. 1989a, 1990, 1992. Replies to the UNDCP "Annual Reports Questionnaire" for the years 1989, 1990 and 1992.

U.N. 1989b. Replies to the UNDCP "Annual Reports Questionnaires", 1989. Field Test Draft, 1990.

Gad et. al., 1989.  "Drug Information News and Highlights".  Gad Z., Geneidi A.S., Faltas S.S. (Eds) 1989, volume 7, numbers 1-4, , The Egyptian Pharmaco Information Centre.

INCSR 1993.  International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.  United States Department of State.  Bureau of International Narcotics Matters.   April 1993.

Other 1990, 1991. Obtained from one or more seizure reports provided by the Government or from other official sources for the years 1990 through 1991.

SPF 1993.  UNDCP Subregional Programme Framework.  North Africa. 8 September 1993.


UNDCP CPF 1993.  UNDCP Country Programme Framework. EGYPT.  September 21st, 1993.


** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years 1988-92.