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Drug Abuse in Africa Essay

Apart from cannabis abuse in northern and southern Africa and khat chewing in north-eastern Africa, the history of drug abuse in Africa is relatively short. The abuse of drugs in Africa is nevertheless escalating rapidly from cannabis abuse to the more dangerous drugs and from limited groups of drug users to a wider range of people abusing drugs. The most common and available drug of abuse is still cannabis, which is known to be a contributing factor to the occurrence of a schizophrenic-like psychosis.

The trafficking in and abuse of cocaine and heroin are the most recent developments in some African countries that had had no previous experience with these drugs. Efforts should be made to design and implement drug abuse assessment programmes to determine the real magnitude and characteristics of the problem and to monitor its trends. A lack of funds and a shortage of adequately trained personnel have made it difficult to implement drug abuse control programmes.

In addition to formal drug control involving the implementation of legislation, there is an informal system of drug abuse control operating through the family, church, school, neighbourhood and work environment, as well as healthy recreational activities. It is suggested that efforts in African countries should be directed towards strengthening not only the formal drug control system but also informal control in order to compensate for the insufficient funds and the shortage of personnel trained in implementing formal drug control measures.

It is very likely that the drug problems in African countries will worsen in future unless more effective measures are implemented to arrest the current situation. Introduction Drug abuse is defined as “… excessive or inappropriate use of a [psycho-active] substance by a person ; such use being considered or judged to be illegal (immoral) by the culture and resulting in harm to the person or society” [ 1] . In defining the phenomenon , therefore , the key determinant is the perception of society of what constitutes drug abuse.

It may be stated in general terms that the socio-cultural values and standards relating to drug abuse in Africa have been weakened by the influence of international developments relating to drug abuse , which have given rise to the change in what society considers abuse. Historical background The irresponsible use of drugs and alcohol by college students has always been an issue for university campuses, but the problem has become more and more frequent and has grown in familiarity with every passing generation.

In past years, the problem has not only multiplied in frequency, but has also grown in danger. Now students are abusing not only recreational drugs like Marijuana and Cocaine, but also prescription drugs like Ritalin and others like it such as Adderall. “As many as 20 percent of college students have used Ritalin or Adderall to study, write papers, and take exams… ” (Jacobs 2). Medications like Ritalin are used to provide energy and concentration when a person cannot achieve them through regular means.

Students take medication like Ritalin to help them deal with loss of sleep so they can stay up all night to cram and still do well in class. Students are now using similar medications like Adderall that are released over long periods of time so they can keep an energy high throughout an entire day instead of just one or two class periods. On some campuses, if you’re not using Ritalin or Adderall, you are just increasing your risk to fall behind. As one Columbia student said, “If you don’t take them, you’ll be at a disadvantage to everyone else” (Jacobs 3). This previous statement is unfortunately all oo true, these types of prescription medications are so popular and commonplace that students attending certain universities believe that “now it’s almost cool to take them” (Jacobs 2). Many college students have come to believe that these drugs are essential to their success, many believe that it can expand their intelligence and give them a learning advantage in classes they find difficult. This is false because these medications were only created to help people suffering from A. D. H. D. to maintain concentration and focus on tasks they previously found overwhelming.

The rise in occurrence of disorders such as A. D. H. D. and A. D. D. in past years may have a link to this problem, many teens are diagnosed with attention disorders and the commonplace use of medications like Ritalin and Adderall may have led a lot of students to think that taking these drugs is normal. At Columbia University, a student even went as far as to say that “the culture here actually encourages people to use stimulants,” (Jacobs 2) Doctors have been seeing a rising amount of young adults who have claimed to have an attention deficit disorder in order to obtain medications to help them in college.

Another leading cause of drug abuse is “the belief that drug abuse or the non-medical use of any drug will not have long-lasting effects on their health. ” (Health Services 2) Campus health providers frequently see students who have over extended themselves by taking too many pills at once or too often and end up wandering in because they cannot function any further. Surveys and reports have confirmed that these forms of drug abuse have more than doubled in the last decade or so. “… T]he number of teenagers…abusing prescription medications tripled from 1992 to 2003… ” (Jacobs 2). The ready availability of these drugs has also led to an increase in their wide-spread use, the “[T]he abuse of prescription drugs…has increased dramatically since the mid-1990s”(Leinwand 1).

The majority of abused prescription drugs are either received from a friend or acquaintance that has been prescribed the medication or sold by someone on campus. Although prescription drug use has indeed increased “Alcohol remains the favored substance by far… (Leinwand 1). Reportedly around 50 percent of college students consume alcohol on a regular basis. Although campus authorities have increased their efforts to put a lid on drinking in recent years, “in 2005, 83% of campus arrests involved alcohol…” So despite regular efforts, drinking on college campuses has continued to become progressively more common over the years, it is pretty much expected. Drinking is the college norm; almost every college student will consume alcohol before their graduation.

Once a student becomes overly dependent on a substance, like alcohol or Ritalin, they can obtain help and possible treatment through their University’s health services and offices. Some of the treatments may be medical or involve a rehabilitation center or a student can seek help through a support network like AA or with a group of supporting family or friends. A student can also opt to go speak with a counselor or possibly a professor about their problems in class or their reliance on a substance that they feel is keeping them from failure in their schooling.

Substance abuse can terribly interfere with a students ability to attend class and to achieve any type of learning, students should not let themselves be caught in the use or abuse of any such substance and should always be able to turn to a university advisor for help or support. Fellow stdents, advisors, and professors should always make an effort to reduce substance abuse on campuses every time they get the chance, because even if it does not end a life, substance abuse can and will destroy a life if it is given the chance and not stopped before it begins.

With the exception of north Africa, where cannabis resin (hashish) has traditionally been used by members of the Sufi sect , east Africa, where the use of khat has been institutionalized , and perhaps southern Africa , where cannabis (dagger) has been widely used [ 2] , there is no evidence to support the view that the abuse of drugs has been part of the African heritage [ 3] , [ 4] . Other psycho-active substances currently being abused do not have historical antecedents in any part of Africa.

Africans, though deeply religious, have not used drugs as a medium in religious rituals, and none of the indigenous herbal psycho-active substances have been used in ceremonies [ 2] . The situation in Africa and the life-styles of the Africans have drastically changed over the past years under the influence of industrial and urban developments. These developments have, in turn, changed the way in which he Africans achieve ataraxia ; at present, the easiest way to achieve it is to resort to psycho-active substances.

Khat (Catha edulis), a plant grown mainly in southern Arabia and eastern and southern Africa [ 5] , first received international attention in 1935 at the League of Nations [ 6] . The psycho-active effects of khat chewing , which are derived from cathine and cathinone [ 7] , are similar to the effects produced by using amphetamines. Within the African region, khat has been grown and used in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The fact that the pleasurable , stimulating and euphoric effects of khat chewing can only be derived from the fresh leaves and shoots of the plant may have contributed to the low popularity of khat as a substance of abuse beyond the local areas of cultivation The plant Cannabis sativa, from which cannabis preparations such as marijuana and hashish are derived, grows wild in Africa. Certain evidence suggests that the cultivation of cannabis and its use as a drug of abuse were introduced into Africa from India [ 8] – [ 10] by the Sufi sect and by Asian traders and travellers [ 9] , [ 11] .

One study indicated that the cannabis plant and its use could have been spread across the Sahara to west Africa around the sixteenth century [ 8] . There is also evidence suggesting that soldiers returning from the Second World War were responsible for the increased incidence of cannabis abuse in west Africa, particularly in Nigeria [ 2] , [ 4] . This is supported by the fact that in west Africa there is no known indigenous name for cannabis, nor has it been used there for mystical purposes.

This is also supported by research findings indicating that cannabis is an important factor in the occurrence of mental illness in Africa [ 12] , [ 13] ; this factor is much less known in cultures where cannabis has for a long time been consumed [ 14] . Another possible route was across the Indian Ocean. This may have been the route by which travellers from India brought cannabis from India to east, central and south Africa as early as the second century, but there is no evidence to suggest that the use of cannabis spread at that time from there to the west coast of Africa.

Current drug abuse situation in Africa Because of the lack of information on the subject, an assessment of the extent, patterns and trends of drug abuse in all the countries of Africa is not an easy task. There are no systems for collecting and retrieving data on drug abuse in African countries, and drug abuse assessment projects are urgently needed for all African countries. This article has, to a large extent, been prepared on the basis of data provided by various workshops and seminars held on the subject in the course of the past 12 years. The following paragraphs summarize the drug abuse situation according to the most commonly abused substances. Cannabis Cannabis grows wild in most parts of Africa but it is also illicitly cultivated. It is the most widely abused illicit drug in the region. It appears to be less abused in countries of east Africa, such as Ethiopia and Somalia, where the abuse of khat is prevalent. Although cannabis is not indigenous to west Africa, it is illicitly cultivated and widely abused in that part of the continent.

In Nigeria, cannabis is predominantly abused by teenagers, who begin using it at the age of 14. The situation in other west African countries is similar. * In particular, the 1974 Workshop of the Association of Psychiatrists in Africa (held at Nairobi, Kenya), the African Seminar on Problems of Drug Dependence (held at Lagos, Nigeria, in 1980) and the World Health Organization Workshop on Prevention and Management of Drug Dependence through Primary Health Care (held at Lagos, Nigeria, in 1985). Khat

The chewing of khat has been practised for years and is, to a large extent, socially accepted in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar and Somalia ; some of these countries are introducing control measures to discourage the cultivation and use of khat. Apart from the habitual use of khat, Workneh [ 15] reports that it is used by students to improve their academic performance, by truck drivers to keep themselves awake and by labourers to supply the extra vigour and energy they need for their work- It is interesting to note that the same reasons have been reported by cannabis users in west Africa.

Amphetamines Amphetamines are imported into Africa, although there is no significant medical justification for using these substances. They are often illegally smuggled into African countries, where they eventually find their way into open markets and patent medicine stores. A few countries, such as Somalia, the Sudan and Togo, have not reported any amphetamine-related problems, but there is general consensus that the abuse of amphetamines in Africa is a problem mainly among adolescents and unskilled labourers, such as drivers and farmers. Opium

Opium is reported to have been abused, sometimes in combination with cannabis or alcohol, in Mauritius, mainly among the Chinese ethnic group. Cocaine, heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide These drugs are not manufactured in Africa but have been increasingly present in Nigeria and other west African countries, as shown by recent seizures and arrests- The evidence suggests that African, and especially west African countries, are used by drug traffickers as transit points for heroin trafficking from South-East Asia to Europe and North America.

It has recently been reported that some Nigerians have been used as carriers of drugs and some have invested in the illicit drug trafficking [ 16] . Cocaine and heroin have recently been seized for the first time in the Sudan. An increasing abuse of cocaine and heroin has been reported in Nigeria [ 13] . The abuse of these drugs has also been reported in other African countries such as Kenya, Liberia and Mauritius. Sedative-hypnotic For the purpose of this article , sedative-hypnotics include barbiturates, benzodiazipines and other substances, the abuse of which presents similar problems.

These substances are imported for legitimate medical purposes, but reports from various African countries indicate that they have also been abused, especially by women. A study in Nigeria has shown that, in order of magnitude , the abuse of these substances is second in rank following alcohol abuse [ 13] . Mandrax (methaqualone and diphenhydramine) was commonly abused in Nigeria in the early 1970s, but since it was banned, its abuse has abated [ 13] . However, some other African countries, such as Swaziland, have reported an increase in the trafficking and abuse of Mandrax.

Glue and petrol sniffing An increase in the abuse of benzine by inhalation has been reported among Sudanese children [ 17] . Recent reports from Kenya, Somalia, SwaziIand and Zambia indicate the abuse of glue and petrol by sniffing, though the extent of such abuse varies from country to country. Pela and Ebie [ 13] highlighted the potential for abuse of volatile solvents in some occupational groups in Nigeria. Most recent reports from Ethiopia indicate that the abuse of glue and petrol is prevalent among juveniles.


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