UN Report: Tramadol Use in Africa Is Increasing
Africa’s tramadol epidemic, particularly prevalent in West and Central Africa, keeps gaining momentum – according to the UN World Drug Report published this week.
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. If consumed at high doses, it can produce effects similar to heroin.
In Africa, the drug became popular among manual laborers, who take it to be able to work longer hours.
Its non-medical use has been reported in almost half of African countries.
Tramadol is known to be highly affordable. In Benin for example, street prices of one dose range from 45-90 U.S. cents.
Between 2016-2020, Africa accounted for more than half of pharmaceutical opioids seized globally, largely due to volumes of confiscated tramadol.
Tramadol is manufactured in South Asia and then trafficked to the continent by gangs, with Benin identified as one of the key entry points.
Among other findings, the report highlights increases in consumption of cocaine across Africa. The drug is gaining ground among the growing young middle class.
Cocaine use is especially high in West Africa along the key cocaine smuggling route, connecting Latin America with Western Europe.
Africa has also continued to play an integral role in the global heroin trade.
The so-called ‘southern route’, one of whose branches leads through East Africa, has become more prominent in recent years due to increased surveillance in the Balkans.
Heroin, originating in Afghanistan, seems to be flowing to Pakistan, from where it is dispatched to East African ports, hidden on small trading vessels. According to the seizure data, the most frequent destinations are Kenya and Tanzania.
The shipments are eventually destined for markets in Western and Central Europe, although smaller quantities are also consumed in Africa.