The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, and Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) have launched the West African drug report for 2014-2017 to address illicit drug trafficking.
The official launching ceremony was held in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.
The UNODC representative to Nigeria Mr. Oliver Stolpe, said the report was the final draft of the first ever drug report presented by the ECOWAS drug unit.
He said the most frequently used of drug across the region remains cannabis stating that one of five persons who access drug treatment were between the ages of 10 to 19 years old.
According to him, non-medical use of prescription drugs such as tramadol appears to be growing most rapidly in the region.
“The most frequently used drug across the region remains cannabis and the majority of persons accessing treatment facilities, do so to tackle cannabis related drug use disorders. Of particular concern in this context is that one in five persons who accesses drug treatment services is aged between 10 and 19 years old. Moreover, the use of opioids in particular, the non-medical use of prescription opioids such as tramadol appears to be growing most rapidly. The coming into existence of a massive illicit tramadol market in just a few years is of great concern to citizens and governments in the region.”
Mr. Stolpe announced that in a week, the ECOWAS, EU and UNODC would validate another study that would specifically analyse the trends and trafficking routes of tramadol.
He said that based on the report, those most affected by drug use are between 20 to 29 years old which the report has also linked drug use disorder and unemployment.
He said though it remains unclear of whether it is the difficulties of finding a job which make many young people turn to drugs or taking drugs that makes it more difficult to get the job.
The Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Siga Jagne, said the report provides evidence based information on emerging trends in drug use, treatment and trafficking to guide policy makers in ECOWAS member States.
Dr. Jagne, who was represented by Dr. Sintiki Ugbe, Director Humanitarian and Social Affairs, ECOWAS Commission said drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking was a serious issues in the region.
She said it was disheartening that West Africa continues to be a region of particular concern in a global issue of drug phenomenal.
Dr. Ugbe said the commission was able to achieve its mandate on having reliable, valid data for the region through the contributions of the European Union.
“The report provides evidence-based information on emerging trends in drug use, treatment and trafficking to guide policy makers in ECOWAS member states and Mauritania to design and implement adequate responses that address both drug supply and demand.”
Also Speaking, the Head of Cooperation of European Union Delegation to ECOWAS, Mr. Kurt Cornelis, said the persistent drug problems present in the region and the consequences for security, economy, society and health weakens the foundations of the rule of law.
He said West Africa is an important transit area for the trafficking of cocaine and heroin adding that there is an alarming increase in local consumption of all kinds of drugs.
According to Mr. Cornelis, the programme is to strengthen the ECOWAS advocacy, monitoring and coordination capacity, to also harmonize information on drug abuse epidemiology and making data available.