Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Africa


                                       EXTENT, PATTERNS AND TRENDS IN DRUG ABUSE

                                                                      Extent of Drug Abuse

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).

                                                                     Abuser Characteristics

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).

                                                                       Regional Variations

No information concerning regional variations has been reported.


There has been a large increase in the abuse of cannabis, as well as some increase in the consumption of barbiturates.  Increases have been attributed to the growing rate of unemployment and the displacement of people from their residential areas.  Increased availability of illicit drugs such as cannabis has been attributed to more demand, especially, in the urban areas, more supply to meet the demand and weak control of illicit trafficking at the point of entry to the country (U.N. 1993).

            The consumption of khat is spreading among all age groups (U.N. 1993).

            Benzene sniffing has been reported spreading among street children in Addis Ababa and other towns (U.N. 1993).

                                                                        Mode of Intake

Benzodiazepines (mainly Diazepam), morphine, pethidine, and pentazocine are often taken with alcohol (Forum 1993).

             Khat is abused alone, as well as, in combination with alcohol and cigarettes. Khat was reported abused together with cigarettes to enhance the effect and improve the taste.  Alcohol and psychotropic substances are used to counteract the stimulation of khat (EFDR 1993).


                                                            COSTS AND CONSEQUENCES OF ABUSE

Negative social consequences of khat abuse are reported. Significant portions of meager revenues are diverted to expenditures on khat. In some cases, up to 50 per cent of the average family income is used to support expenses related to khat. Other consequences reported are family instability, prostitution and criminal behavior.  Further, it is said that khat consumption is often associated with reduced working hour among farmer and as a result to a decrease in the production of cereals, and thus, malnutrition in the family.  To counteract the effect of khat, alcohol is often abused, resulting in multiple dependence (Forum 1993).


                                                            NATIONAL RESPONSES TO DRUG ABUSE

                                                                        National Strategy

An Ad-Hoc Committee on Drug Control was established in 1991, chaired by the Ministry of Health (Pharmacy Department).  The Committee includes representatives from the ministries of Education, Information, Interior (Police), Justice, Labor and Social Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Attorney General and Customs and Excise. In 1993, a National Health Policy was drafted (Forum 1993).

            Efforts were made to tax khat vendors heavily, in order to reduce sales. Some shops were closed.  On University Campus, students were not allowed to chew khat in their dormitories (EFDR 1993).

                                                    Structure of National Drug Control Organs

The central government unit responsible for liaison and coordination of national drug control policy is the Narcotics and Psychotropics Control Division within the Pharmacy Department within the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health is also the competent authority for the issuance of drug import and export authorizations and certificates.




                                                                         Treaty Adherence

Ethiopia is party to the single convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 and the 1971 convention on psychotropic substances (Report 1991).

            The Ministry of Health, through its pharmaceutical department, exercises all control measures to reduce the supply and demand for drug and thereby limit the use of drugs exclusively for medical and scientific purposes.  In cooperation with the police force and customs administration, the ministry endeavors to prevent illicit drug cultivation, production, manufacturing, trafficking and abuse (Report 1991).

            Taxes are levied on khat marketing and trafficking (EFDR 1993).

                                                 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 or narcotic drugs was reported for 1993.

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 and psychotropic substances.
(iii) Control of non-treaty substances, if any: None reported.
(iv) Other administrative measures: For 1988, the creation of a National Committee was reported having taken place. Members of the Committee were representatives of the Police, Customs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

                                                                          Social Measures

Penal sanctions related to social measures: In 1991, courts applied measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation or social reintegration for a drug-related offence neither as an alternative and in addition to conviction or punishment.

Other social measures: None reported.

                                                            DEMAND REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

                                                                        Primary Prevention

During the last few years, the media have been active in promoting drug prevention campaigns, which included video shows on television in 1992, interviews on radio in 1993 and 1994, newspapers' articles in 1994, and drama performances about cannabis abusers in 1994.  Formal mechanisms of collaboration exist between the media and each of the following: health professionals, law enforcement agencies, private companies, and ministries (U.N. 1993).

            Drug education programmes reported consist of training of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other health workers, and social workers (U.N. 1993).

            Youth groups participate in drug prevention activities, such as workshops and seminars (U.N. 1993).  The Ministry of Education has been combating drug abuse by introducing prevention education concerning the danger of smoking and drinking alcohol in formal and informal education (Report 1991).

                                                                        Treatment and Rehabilitation

One psychiatric hospital provides treatment for drug abusers (350 beds).  In addition, 2 psychiatric nurses are available in each regional health care centre.  Two detoxification centres for drug dependent abusers provide treatment services. Drugs such as Librium are used for detoxification (EFDR 1993).

                                                                        SUPPLY REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

                                                    Arrests, Convictions and Types of Offenses

Fifty one heroin trafficking related arrests, almost all in Addis Ababa Airport, were made in 1993 and 1994 (until beginning of October) (Mission 1994).

            In 1990, 80 males were arrested for cannabis abuse, as compared to 13 in 1988 and 33 in 1987 (Pharmaceutical Service Department, Ministry of Health) (Report 1991).


The frequency and quantity of drug seizures at the Addis Ababa Airport have increased during the past five years (Forum 1993).

            In 1992, 5,224 kg of cannabis herb, 0.077 kg of cocaine (base and salts), 0.029 kg of morphine and 1 kg of stimulants were seized (U.N. 1992).

            In 1991, 0.353 kg of cannabis herb, 1.100 kg of cocaine, 0.059 kg/6 units of morphine and 0.311 kg/37 units of LSD were seized (U.N. 1991).

            According to data from the Pharmaceutical Service Department, Ministry of Health, in 1987 40.07 kg of cannabis were seized, in 1988 75 g of heroin and 17.40 kg of cannabis, in 1989 73 g of heroin and 7.5 g of cocaine, and in 1990 20 kg of heroin and 10 kg of cannabis were seized (Report 1991).

                                                            Supply Source of Drugs

Khat is cultivated for commercial distribution in parts of Ethiopia and Kenya.  Ethiopian harvests are exported to Northern Somalia, Djibouti and across the Red Sea to Yemen (Canada 1992). The Harrarghe region of Ethiopia is now universally believed to be the main source of khat. Nowadays, khat is grown not only in Harrarghe, but, also, in various other regions of Ethiopia, such as Shoa, Keffa, Wello, Arsi and Sidamo (EFDR 1993).

            Lack of control, particularly with regard to drugs, has made Ethiopian Airlines an attractive means of transporting illegal products to other markets.  Nigerian and other couriers regularly bring narcotics out of Southwest and Southeast Asia through Addis Ababa for onward shipment to Western Europe and the U.S. (INCSR 1993).

            Traffickers were found choosing the Ethiopian Airlines as a carrier and Addis Ababa a transit point for drugs to and from Asia, Europe, the Far and Middle East, as well as, other parts of the world.  This may be due to the fact that increased surveillance in other parts of Africa and harsher punishments have caused traffickers to change their routes to countries, like Ethiopia, that were previously not seriously affected by transit traffic (Report 1991).

References and notes


U.N. 1991, 1992.  Seizures figures were taken from the reply to the "Annual Report Questionnaire", part III for the years 1991 and 1992.

U.N. 1993.  Reply to the UNDCP "Annual Reports Questionnaire" for the year 1993.

Canada 1992.  Special Report on Khat Prepared by Canada Customs.  January 1992.

EFDR 1993.  Paper Presented on Expert Forum on Drugs Demand Reduction Workshop.  Nairobi, Kenya, 1- 5 November, 1993.  by Assefa Beyene.  also: Report of the Expert Forum on Demand Reduction in East and Southern Africa  (this report has not been formally edited) Nairobi, Kenya, 1-5 November, 1993.

Forum 1993.  "Country Profile on Demand Reduction Forum in East and Southern Africa".  September, 1993.

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

Mission 1994.  "Mission to Ethiopia".  9-19 October 1994.  by George M. King, UNDCP Regional Law Enforcement Adviser.  Nairobi, Kenya.

Report 1991.  "Abuse of Drugs and Illicit Trafficking in Ethiopia". 1991.



** 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 Questionnaire for the years 1988-91, 1993.