Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Africa


Extent of Drug Abuse

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 ) (ARQ 1992).  Drugs such as LSD, cocaine and heroin have been unknown in Namibia before independence but surged thereafter (HONLEA 1993).

            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),(ARQ 1991).

            Ninety per cent of the total prison population in 1992 were drug and alcohol abusers.  Out of these, 97 per cent were males (ARQ 1992).

            In 1990, it was reported that 15 to 20 per cent of youth had abused methaqualone and cannabis (CMO 1990).

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.
                                    (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).

Abuser Characteristics

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 (ARQ 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 (ARQ 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).

                                                                       Regional Variations

No information reported in Annual Reports Questionnaire by 31st December 1993.


Drug abuse is reported as increasing since Independence (March 1990) (ARQ 1991).

            Cannabis abuse was reported to be decreasing in 1992, which is attributed to increased control by the newly formed Drug Enforcement Bureau (DEB), and the emergency situation in South Africa which makes trafficking of cannabis to Namibia difficult (ARQ 1992).

            A large increase in methaqualone abuse as well as some increase in heroin and cocaine abuse was reported for 1992.  An increase in the abuse of sedatives and alcohol among the White Namibian population has been reported.  The increase in the abuse of certain drugs has been attributed to rising unemployment and migration to urban areas (ARQ 1992).

Mode of Intake

Methaqualone and cannabis are reported smoked and volatile solvents inhaled. Cannabis is reported taken in combination with methaqualone and alcohol (ARQ 1992).

            Intravenous drug use (IVUs) is believed to be rare (Namibia 1993).



In Windhoek district, 15 deaths due to poisoning were reported for 1992.  Of these, 4 were due to unknown drugs, but usually related to traditional brew ("Tombo") or suspected traditional medicine use.  Since 1989, there has been only one case of "dipipanone" overdose. No other opiate related deaths were reported (ARQ 1992).

            According to a 1992 survey, about 40-50 per cent of all traumatic surgery cases are alcohol or drug related.  Approximately 30 per cent of hospital beds are occupied by alcohol and other drug related illnesses.  Of 2,518 patients surveyed in the areas around the capital Windhoek, about 831 suffered from the abuse of alcohol and other drug related conditions.  About 63 per cent of these 831 patients have been devastated with chronic alcoholism and the abuse of other drugs particularly cannabis and methaqualone (Namibia 1993).

            No official record of occurrence of intravenous drug users (IVUs) nor indications on the spread of HIV/AIDS among this group is available (Namibia 1993).



National Strategy

In November 1991, an Inter-Ministerial Drug Committee was established, with representatives from all ministries and relevant non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The committee aims to coordinate activities relating to the prevention of drug abuse and the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependent abusers (Namibia 1993).

                                                    Structure of National Drug Control Organs

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


                                                                         Treaty Adherence

Namibia is not Party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, to the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, nor the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

            A project of two years duration, the "Assistance in the Drug Prevention and Law Enforcement Sectors", initiated in March 1994, is in process of implementation by the Ministry of Health and Social Services and UNDCP.  The objective of the project is to strengthen control of prescription and dispensing of psycho-active substances by improving the knowledge of medical practitioners, pharmacists and veterinarians, thereby, reducing demand for these substances (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 psychotropic substances and narcotic drugs was reported.

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: An Inter-Ministerial Drug Committee was reported having been established in 1991.

                                                                          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 nor in addition to conviction or punishment.

Other social measures: None reported.


                                                       DEMAND REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

Primary Prevention

The media are used in anti-drug campaigns.  Radio programmes on drug abuse, aiming at young adults, were broadcasted in 1993 and newspapers have been publishing a weekly section on drug abuse aimed at school children (ARQ 1992).

            Prevention through education is carried out in primary and secondary schools, but it targets only part of the student population.  The school curricula includes a "Life Skills" programme, which contains a minor section on drugs and alcohol.  Prevention education, targeting secondary school students, have been organized by "Drug Action Group", a private organization, and "Teenage Against Drug Abuse" (TADA) (CMO 1990; EFDR 1993). Some of the prevention activities consist of newsletters, lectures in youth camps and lifestyle training for street children (ARQ 1992).

            Basic and advanced training is provided to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and drug law enforcement personnel.  Professional organizations, trade unions, voluntary agencies, religious groups and law enforcement agencies have been involved in the formulation and implementation of prevention programmes (ARQ 1992).

            Community-wide and workplace drug education workshops have been conducted to train about 5 per cent of the work force as of 1992. "Model programmes for the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse among workers and their families" have been conducted as of 1993, by the Alcohol and Drug Resource and Rehabilitation Centre of the Ministry of Health, with the assistance of WHO and ILO. Among the participants in the programmes are the University of Namibia, Telecom Namibia, two supermarkets, Windhoek Prison and a private hospital.  The project aims to promote the implementation of primary prevention programmes in the workplace and in the community, to train managers and supervisors in early detection and intervention amongst drug abusing workers and refer to treatment, in case of need (ARQ 1992; EFDR 1993).

Treatment and Rehabilitation

A national treatment policy is being formulated by the Department of Mental Health (Ministry of Health) by the Psychiatrist in-charge, who is also a member of the Inter-Ministerial Drug Committee.  A network of after-care services mainly run by non-governmental organizations and churches exists throughout the country.  A life-line telephone counselling service has been set up. In 1992, 1 psychiatric and 66 general hospitals provided treatment for drug abusers (ARQ 1992).  Detoxification, which is carried out in neighboring South Africa, is compulsory for all drug consumers and is followed by drug-free counselling and self-help groups (Report Forum 1993).

            Some prisons provided drug dependent inmates with drug counselling, counselling on drug related diseases, vocational training, and general education. A UNICEF project for drug education to female prisoners and staff was undertaken in 1993. Detoxification, social reintegration and aftercare is not provided in Namibian prisons (ARQ 1992).

            Social reintegration of persons who have undergone treatment and rehabilitation programmes is available in the form of assistance in finding employment, counselling for ex-abusers and their families and accommodation in halfway houses.  These services are provided by a resource centre, NGOs and organizations associated with churches (ARQ 1992).


                                                        SUPPLY REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

Arrests, Convictions and Types of Offenses

In 1990, 1991 and 1992, 496, 531 and 414 persons, respectively, were arrested for drug related offenses, of which 159 in 1990 and 147 in 1991 were foreigners (Namibia 1993; HONLEA 1993).


In 1992, 329.312 kg of cannabis plants and 3,655 units of methaqualone were seized (ARQ 1992).

            In 1991, 1,024.953 kg of cannabis herb, 2.015 kg/140 units of cannabis plants, 1.467 kg of heroin and 425,364 units of methaqualone were seized (ARQ 1991).


                                                                    Supply Source of Drugs

Cannabis is locally grown for local consumption as well as trafficked from and through Namibia to neighboring countries. During 1992, the estimated area of cannabis cultivation was around 3 hectares and the estimated yield of plant per hectare was 280 kg.  The estimated total annual production was 61 kg (Namibia 1993).

            Mandrax tablets are imported from Southern neighboring countries.  Namibia, furthermore, is used as a transit country for this drug by Eastern producing countries (HONLEA 1993).

            Border control has weakened since Independence and trafficking from South Africa and Zambia through Namibia has been reported, especially, cannabis, methaqualone, heroin and cocaine (ARQ 1991).

References and Notes


ARQ 1991,1992. Replies to the UNDCP "Annual Reports Questionnaires" for the years 1991 and 1992.

CMO 1990. Reply to the Questionnaire regarding the seven targets of the "Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control" (CMO), 1990.

EFDR 1993.  "Expert Forum on Demand Reduction".  November 1993.

HONLEA 1993.  "Sixth Meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA), Africa".  Abidjan, 24-28 May 1993.

Namibia 1993. "Country Drug Profile Namibia, Regional Expert Forum on Demand Reduction in East and Southern Africa".  Nairobi, 1-5 November 1993.

Report Forum 1993.  "Report of the Expert Forum on Demand Reduction in East and Southern Africa".  Nairobi, Kenya, 1-5 November 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 year 1991.