Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Africa

Extent, Patterns and Trends in Drug Abuse
Extent of Drug Abuse

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. 1991).

Abuser Characteristics

It is estimated that 55 per cent of sedatives abusers, 30 per cent of synthetic narcotic analgesic abusers, and 20 per cent of opiate abusers are women (U.N. 1991).

            Drug abusers tend to be 10-60 years of age.  Opiates abusers tend to be 25-55 years of age, cannabis abusers 10-45 years of age and sedatives abusers 20-60 years of age.  The abuse of volatile solvents is most common among the youth, around 10-20 years old (U.N. 1991).

            The abuse of prescription drugs is common among professionals such as nurses and doctors (EFDR 1993).

            Drug abuse has been described as a problem especially among marginal groups, who are unemployed (EFDR 1993).

            Cannabis is mainly abused by street and school youth, as well as by soldiers; heroin tends to be consumed by urban and street youth; cocaine abuse is prevalent among high income groups; Somali refugees and town youth abuse khat; petrol is inhaled by street children (EFDR 1993).

                                                                       Regional Variations

In rural areas, consumption of alcohol and local brews is done extensively.  The Police narcotic section reports a high prevalence of drug abuse in places like Kampala, Arua Mbale, Entebbe, Jinja, Mbarara and most urban centres (EFDR 1993).


A large increase is reported in the abuse of opiates and cocaine, as well as in the abuse of cannabis and volatile solvents. Some increase in the abuse of benzodiazepines, some decrease in the abuse of barbiturates, and a large decrease in the abuse of amphetamines are also reported (U.N. 1991).

            The increase in the abuse of cannabis and volatile solvents is attributed to unemployment, social upheavals, family disruptions as well as high rates of drop-outs from school.  Increased production and trafficking of cannabis has led to increased availability of the drug (U.N. 1991).

            Cocaine has been recently introduced due to traffickers' diversion of their routes via Uganda (U.N. 1991).

Mode of Intake

Opiates and sedatives are mostly injected.  Some sedatives are also ingested and some opiates smoked.  Hallucinogens and amphetamines are ingested and cannabis is smoked (U.N. 1991).

            Multiple drug abuse like volatile solvents mixed with alcohol, and combinations of cannabis and volatile solvents with alcohol are reported (U.N. 1991).

            Cannabis is smoked and dissolved in water for consumption.  Khat is sold openly and chewed by youth in urban centres.  Petrol is sniffed either from small bottles or from soaked cloth, mostly by urban youth and street children (EFDR 1993).



Increasing lack of discipline in a number of urban secondary schools as well as in high class boarding schools are attributed to drug and alcohol abuse. Decreased production in some rural areas is attributed to excessive abuse of locally produced alcohol (U.N. 1991).



National Strategy

The 1970 Pharmacy and Drugs Act is used to control the use of narcotics in Uganda. Fines prescribed in the penal provisions of this act have not been revised since 1970; their effect is reduced due to the devaluation of the Ugandan currency (Uganda 1991).

            In 1987, the Uganda Police Force set up the Anti-Narcotics Unit within the Criminal Investigation Department, leading to several seizures (Uganda 1991).

                                                    Structure of National Drug Control Organs

The central government unit responsible for liaison and coordination of national drug control policy is the Director of Medical Services.

Action Taken to Implement International Drug Control Treaties**
Treaty Adherence

Uganda is Party to the 1961 Single 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.

            Narcotics enforcement is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, which also has responsibility for other severe medical threats, such as malaria and AIDS (INCSR 1993).

            Four Ugandan law enforcement officers received anti-drug training in the U.S. in 1990 (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 for both narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. However, some exporting countries of psychotropic substances do not comply with the import permit requirement for the controlled substances from the importers in Uganda.  No manufacture of psychotropic substances and narcotic drugs takes place.

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 does not require 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: In 1990, the Ministry of Health reviewed the national drug policy. One of the recommendations was that the penalty for possession of narcotic drugs should be raised from six months to 10 years jail term on conviction.

                                                                          Social Measures

Penal sanctions related to social measures: In 1990, courts did not apply measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation or social reintegration for drug-related offence as an alternative or in addition to conviction or punishment.

Other social measures: None reported.


                                                       DEMAND REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

Primary Prevention

The media, with the collaboration of health professionals, law enforcement agencies, private companies and ministries actively promote drug prevention campaigns.  The latter includes television programmes for the youth, crime prevention programmes for adolescents on the radio, as well as drug awareness plays for youth and posters for the general public (CMO 1991).

            Drug education has been part of the curricula of primary school students since 1987.  Prevention activities for secondary and higher education students include lectures and drug awareness talks by the officer in charge of narcotics, and seminars on issues relating to drugs in which students participation is encouraged (CMO 1991).

            Pharmacists and law enforcement personnel are offered drug education programmes as part of their basic training (CMO 1991).

            Several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), particularly Deliverance Church, Africa Foundation and Youth Sharing Organization run community-wide programmes on drugs and substances abuse with street children and youth (EFDR 1993).


Treatment and Rehabilitation

The treatment policy followed in Uganda is mainly curative, and is conducted through the National Mental Hospital and related regional units. A total of 12 treatment facilities, including 8 general hospitals, 2 non-hospital residential units, one psychiatric hospital, and one self-help facility are available for treatment of drug abusers.  A total of 258 abusers were treated in the psychiatric hospital, more than half for cannabis abuse (CMO 1991).

            Treatment programmes include detoxification of opiate and cannabis dependent abusers, drug free counselling for school and street children, outreach programmes for school and street children as well as college students, self help groups and counselling by church groups. Some prisons offer general medical care, detoxification and counselling on drugs and related diseases (CMO 1991).

            A national community based rehabilitation policy is being developed. Concerned NGOs, through their general rehabilitation centres, assist in the rehabilitation of street children.  Social reintegration programmes include counselling services for ex-abusers and their families (CMO 1991).

            Government hospitals have psychiatrists, doctors, and social workers whose tasks are to provide treatment and mental rehabilitation to patients, arising out of drug and substance abuse.  Cases arising out of tobacco, cannabis, petrol and prescription drugs have been treated in major hospitals (EFDR 1993).


                                                        SUPPLY REDUCTION ACTIVITIES

Arrests, Convictions and Types of Offenses

A number of Ugandans have been arrested in European countries for the possession of herbal cannabis (Uganda 1991).


In 1990, 3.902 kg of heroin, 74.140 kg of cannabis seeds, 239.140 kg of cannabis herb and 72,000 units of methaqualone were seized.  In 1991, 1,286 kg of cannabis herb, 3 kg of cocaine and 2.5 kg of heroin were seized. Seizures for 1992 included 143.931 kg of cannabis herb, 25,000 units of cannabis plants, 2.5 kg of cannabis resin, 40 kg of cannabis seeds, 0.815 kg of cocaine, 0.5 kg of heroin and 60,000 units of methaqualone (U.N. 1990, 1992; Other 1990, 1991).

                                                                    Supply Source of Drugs

Opium home production in rural areas has decreased, while increased home production of cannabis is reported. Cannabis is grown and packed for local consumption as well as for illicit traffic (U.N. 1991; Uganda 1991).

            Uganda has become a transit country for drug trafficking. Traffickers from various countries, including Ugandans travel to South-East Asia (India and Pakistan) where they obtain heroin, mandrax and other drugs which they then transit through Uganda to Kenya, Southern Africa and Europe (Uganda 1991).

            Some heroin and hashish are shipped from South Asia and Europe through Kampala's Entebbe Airport to South Africa (INCSR 1993).

            In Kampala City, drugs are available in slums such as Katwe, Kisenyi, Owino, Namuwongo and Kalerwe, as well as railway stations.  Transit points such as airports and border entry points, provide additional opportunities for trafficking of drugs such as cocaine, heroin and opium (EFDR 1993).

References and Notes

U.N. 1990,1991,1992. Replies to the UNDCP "Annual Reports Questionnaires" for the years 1990, 1991 and 1992.

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

EFDR 1993. Country Report Presented at the UNDCP Expert Forum on Demand Reduction.  Nairobi, Kenya, 1-5 November, 1993.

INCSR 1993.  International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.  U.S. 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 other official sources for the years 1990 and 1991.

Uganda 1991. "Fourth Meeting of Head of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies" (HONLEA), Africa, 17 April 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 year 1990.