SENEGAL: launch of the first West African University Course in Addictology

28 February 2018- In Africa, the use of various types of drugs, including cocaine, opioids, amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances, has increased, according to the 2017 report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). At the global level, only 1 out of 6 people in need of drug dependence treatment has access to treatment programmes while this figure in Africa is only 1 out of 18.

UNODC supported the establishment of university curricula in order to train the addictology specialists, and promoted a public health and human rights-sensitive approach.

These sustained efforts combined with the political will of national authorities made possible the launch, on February 28 in Dakar, of the first University Degree in Addictology in West Africa by the Faculty of Medicine of the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar.

The inaugural lecture was attended by University authorities, Representatives of International Organizations, Anti-drug experts, Law enforcement agencies, and partners who supported the project.

The main objective of this University specialty is to increase the quality of human resources dealing with drug users health care in respect of their human rights; to contribute to change in therapeutic methods by popularizing addictology in Senegal and in the region.

The launching ceremony of the First West african Course on Addictology at the University of Dakar, Senegal ©UNODC

According to Professor Mamadou Habib Thiam, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the Fann University Hospital,  "The health costs of drug abuse represent up to 2% of GDP for some countries and the involvement of the university can help to find solutions in drug demand reduction. This course will be a tool for the improvement of health care services for drug users." 

According to Professor Aida Sylla, Head of the Division of Mental Health at the Ministry of Health, "the introduction of this University Degree raises a lot of hope for addressing the lack of specialists and epidemiological data on drugs."

This course is the climax of a long process that started with the so-called ''UDSEN'' survey conducted from April to July 2011 in Senegal which has allowed the collection of reliable qualitative and quantitative data on Injecting Drug Users in the Dakar region. The Integrated Addictions Management Centre of Dakar (CEPIAD) was then created thanks to UNODC and other donors such as the National AIDS Control Council (CNLS), ESTHER (now Expertise France), the Global Fund, the Paris City Hall, and the Initiative 5%. Around one hundred persons attended with interest to the inaugural lecture, among whom there were doctors, students, and law enforcement personnel.

The course is composed of about a dozen modules ranging from "Psychopathology of addictions" to "Clinic of addictions to psychoactive substances", as well as modules related to legal aspects and the reduction of risks related to addictions.

On behalf of the UNODC Regional Representative, Babacar Diouf, Program Officer, emphasized the security, economic and public health challenges posed by drug dependence.  "UNODC is proposing a balanced approach regarding drug issues. ECOWAS and the European Union, our partners, welcome the establishment of this university diploma which reinforces current initiatives on drugs control", he added  .

UNODC supported the creation of the CEPIAD in 2014, and the training of addiction specialists of the same centre. About 200 patients are currently treated in the Centre from which services several hundred addicted drug users have already benefitted.

On its side, ECOWAS is committed to supporting the integration of the curriculum on drug addiction into university education in the region. To this end, ECOWAS, UNODC and the European Union are in partnership within the framework of the Project Support to ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on illicit drug trafficking, organized crime related to it and drug abuse in West Africa.

UNODC has provided technical assistance to West African States for the past 20 years through its Regional Office for West and Central Africa in Dakar, Senegal and 11 other local offices based in different countries of the region. 

For more information:

UNODC action against drug trafficking in West Africa

Support Project to ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on illicit drug trafficking in West Africa

UNODC Sahel Programme

"UNPLUGGED", for preventing drug use in schools through West Africa