Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Africa



Extent of Drug Abuse

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) (ARQ 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).


Abuser Characteristics

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 (ARQ 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 (ARQ 1990).

                                                                       Regional Variations

Heroin and cocaine abuse is reported to be more common along the Coastal region and the Southern part of the country.  Cannabis and amphetamine preparations are abused mainly in rural areas (ARQ 1991).

            According to a 1989 survey among students and other out of school youth, urban youth tend to abuse drugs more than their rural counterparts (Preventive Education 1992).


A large increase in the abuse of heroin and cocaine has been reported for 1993.  Some increase in the abuse of synthetic narcotic analgesics has been also reported.  The abuse of amphetamine and benzodiazepines are reported stable.  Some decrease has been reported in the consumption of hallucinogens.  The trend in the abuse of cocaine and heroin is viewed as connected to middle aged affluent traders using the drug as a status symbol, as well as to an increase in the availability of heroin and cocaine due to traffickers' efforts (ARQ 1993).


Mode of Intake

Cocaine is either inhaled or sniffed; synthetic narcotic analgesics, amphetamine, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines are usually ingested; cannabis is smoked or ingested; heroin is either ingested, smoked, or sniffed (ARQ 1993).

            Heroin is reported to be taken in combination with cocaine synthetic narcotic analgesics; synthetic narcotic analgesics are consumed with heroin; cocaine is typically taken with cannabis; cannabis with cocaine and benzodiazepines; and benzodiazepines are consumed with alcohol (ARQ 1993).


            The social costs and consequences associated with drug abuse include: anxiety within families due to the spread of substance abuse among youth, a rise in crime and resistance to arrest among cannabis cultivators and drug dependent abusers roaming on the streets (ARQ 1993).


National Strategy


Under current Ghanaian drug laws, possession or trafficking of any type of narcotics is subject to a mandatory ten-year prison sentence and, where applicable, asset seizure and forfeiture. The Government aggressively enforces the laws.  The Narcotics Control Board (NCB) has recommended amendment in the legislation, to permit that 50 per cent of seized assets be used in support of counternarcotics efforts (INCSR 1993).

                                                    Structure of National Drug Control Organs

The central government unit responsible for liaison and coordination of national drug control policy is the Narcotics Control Board of Ghana. The Director of Pharmaceutical Services of the Ministry of Health acts as competent authority for the issuance of import and export authorizations.


                                                                         Treaty Adherence

Ghana is Party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol, 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

            Ghana participates actively in UN international meetings on narcotic drugs, receives assistance from the UNDCP, and maintains active contacts on narcotics issues with the British, Canadian, German, and United States diplomatic missions in Accra (INCSR 1993).

            The 1931 U.S.- U.K. extradition treaty was reaffirmed between the United States and Ghana and was implemented in 1958.  The treaty covers 27 extraditable offenses, including drug trafficking (INCSR 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. Diversion of psychotropic substances into illicit channels was reported for 1992 and 1993. The psychotropic substances diazepam and phenobarbitone were reported having been manufactured in 1993. No manufacture of narcotic drugs was reported.  All manufacturers are located in Accra.

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: None reported.

                                                                          Social Measures

Penal sanctions related to social measures: In 1993, courts did not apply measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation or social reintegration for a drug-related offence. In the past, however, such measures were applied either as an alternative or in addition to conviction or punishment.

Other social measures: In 1990, social measures put into effect with the purpose of improving the general situation with respect to drug abuse revolved around drug abuse education. No social measures were reported for the other years.


                                                       DEMAND REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

Primary Prevention

The mass media actively promote drug prevention campaigns, in the form of news interviews and panel discussions on television and radio (initiated in 1990), news features and pictures in newspapers (since 1990), films on the effects of drugs, street concerts and exhibitions (ARQ 1992, 1993).  The media, gathers information informally from health professionals, private companies and government sources. Seminars are occasionally organized for the media by law enforcement agencies for briefing on drug related information (ARQ 1993).

            Special programmes are developed for illiterate people, such as drama programmes on television in the local languages and street concerts staged by community health nurses (ARQ 1992).

            Drug education activities are held in secondary schools and higher education students.  These activities include inter-school debates on drug abuse issues, guidance and counselling on prevention education on drug abuse, life skill training for youth in schools, the formation of anti-drug abuse clubs, lectures, film shows, and visits to psychiatric hospitals to see the effects of drug abuse (CMO 1991; ARQ 1992,1993).

            International assistance for developing educational programmes has been provided by UNDCP and UNESCO (ARQ 1992).

            Basic and further training courses on drug education is given to the following professional groups: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health workers (ARQ 1993).  Teachers, were also trained, in some regions, on drug abuse prevention activities (ARQ 1992).

            A number of community organizations are involved in prevention activities, such as, Parent Teacher Associations, Medical Students Associations, Church Organizations, Market Women Associations, Ghana Private Road Transport Union and Nurses in Training (CMO 1991).

            In 1992, the Government of Ghana held an international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking which included school programmes, a radio and television contest, as well as public lectures on the effects of drug abuse.  A two-day workshop was held in Accra in September with the participation of 15 government agencies and NGOs (INCSR 1993).

Treatment and Rehabilitation

Treatment and rehabilitation are provided by the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health.  It is the policy of the Ministry to provide treatment and rehabilitation facilities outside psychiatric hospitals (ARQ 1993).

            During 1993, 126 drug abusers received treatment or rehabilitation services; 16 of the cases were due to opiates abuse, 9 were related to cocaine, 85 were due to cannabis and 16 stemmed from polydrug abuse (ARQ 1993).

            Detoxification treatment (appropriate for youth and adults), drug free counseling (most appropriate for youth) and self-help groups (mainly for adults) constitute the types of treatment programmes available to drug abusers.  Detoxification, an in-patient programme lasting from 5 to 14 days, is available at 3 psychiatric hospitals and some general hospitals (ARQ 1993).

            Counseling services for ex-abusers are provided by psychiatrists and community psychiatric nurses (ARQ 1993).

            Three public institutions provide rehabilitation services to drug dependent abusers in the psychiatric hospitals at Accra, Pantan (Accra) and Ankaful (Central Region).  Among the rehabilitation measures, patients are taught various skills, such as cane weaving, carpentry and sewing.  In three private psychiatric institutions, two emphasize clinical treatment and one uses occupational therapy, as part of its rehabilitation programmes for drug abusers (PDE 1993).

                                                        SUPPLY REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

Arrests, Convictions and Types of Offenses


In 1991, 47 persons were arrested for drug abuse and 31 for trafficking. Most arrests were cannabis related (ARQ 1991).



Cocaine seizures and arrests rose in 1992.  Customs seized two significant shipments of cocaine at Accra International Airport.  Both originated in Rio de Janeiro, were smuggled by air first to Lagos and then to Accra, and were intended for transshipment to the U.S. (INCSR 1993).

            In 1992, 2,382.408 kg of cannabis plants (including cannabis herb), 6.608 kg of cocaine (base and salts) and 3.324 kg of heroin were seized (ARQ 1992).

            In 1990, 10,205.881 kg of cannabis plants, 5 kg of cocaine (base and salts), and 26 kg of heroin were seized (ARQ 1990).

                                                                    Supply Source of Drugs

Cannabis is the only drug illegally cultivated in Ghana (INCSR 1993).  It is grown throughout the country, but particularly in the forest area (ARQ 1991).  Cannabis that is not consumed locally is smuggled by truck or boat to Togo, Ivory Coast, Angola, and the Canary Islands (INCSR 1993).

            Drug trafficking in Ghana is increasing, but Ghanaian enforcement resources remain insufficient.  Smuggling is carried out by couriers and in cargo.  According to Ghanaian Customs, European nationals are becoming involved in the local trade which has been dominated by Ghanaians and Nigerians (INCSR 1993).

            Some heroin is abused in Ghana, but most is transshipped to the U.S. and Europe.  According to Ghanaian authorities, traffickers get their supplies from Thailand, Hong Kong, Nigeria, and Cote d'Ivoire; they enter the Ghana-Togo, Ghana-Cote d'Ivoire land borders or by air through Accra International Airport.  Arrests at the Ghana-Togo border and Accra airport indicate the carriers are most frequently connected with Nigerian drug trafficking organizations.  The Togolese connection is also significant.  Recent arrests by Ghana Customs also indicate that between 150-200 Ghanaians, ostensibly stranded in Bangkok, while in route to purported jobs in Korea and Japan, are in fact dealing in heroin.  They have used express mail firms to send parcels containing drugs to contacts in Ghana (INCSR 1993).

            Drug traffickers opened new routes from Ghana to Europe and the U.S. in 1992.  Presumably because of tighter airport enforcement measures at U.S. and U.K. airports, some narcotics shipments were sent from Ghana to Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, for trafficking to European countries. Ghanaian traffickers have begun travelling to Rio de Janeiro via Nigeria to obtain cocaine.  These traffickers, usually with Nigerian backing, are organized into small syndicated and act as agents for local distribution or export (INCSR 1993).

References and Notes


ARQ 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993. Replies to the UNDCP "Annual Report Questionnaires" for the years 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993.

CMO 1991. Reply to the questionnaire regarding the seven targets of the "Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control" (CMO), 1991.


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

PDE 1993.  Preventive Drug Education (Functional Adult Literacy Programme)Facilitator's Manual (A Revised Edition).  April 1993.  Prepared by D.N.A. Nortey and K.A. Senah.

Preventive Education 1992.  "Report on Workshop on Integration of Drug Education Into School Curriculum for Second Cycle Education Teachers".  Legon, Ghana.  January 3rd-10th, 1992.


** 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 1990-1993.