World Drug Report 2020 : West Africa Regional Trends


  • Africa recorded the largest global increase in cannabis use between 2010 and 2017
  • Tramadol seizures on the African continent account for 88% of all global tramadol seizures in 2017

DAKAR On the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, celebrated annually on 26 June, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today publishes its World Drug Report 2020. This year's theme is: Better knowledge for better care.

"All over the world, we see that risks and consequences of drug use are worsened by poverty, limited opportunities for education and jobs, stigma and social exclusion, which in turn helps to deepen inequalities, moving us further away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals," said UNODC Executive Director Ms. Ghada Waly. "In the COVID-19 recovery, we need all countries to act on their commitments, and show shared responsibility to tackle illicit drug supply and reduce demand."

Global drug use is on the rise, rising from 4.8 per cent of the world's population aged 15-64 in 2009 to 5.3 per cent of the population in 2018. Although reliable data on drug use is lacking for a large number of countries, particularly in Africa, some trends have been identified. For example, at the global level, the increase in cannabis use between 2010 and 2017 was highest in Africa, followed by Asia. For example, it is estimated that 1.2% of the population in Kenya and 10.8% of the population in Nigeria consume cannabis.

In addition, the report estimates the number of opioid users in Africa at 6 million in 2017, up from 2.2 million in 2016. Non-medical use of opioids is particularly high in West and Central Africa, where it is estimated at 1.9% among the adult population. The non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids, particularly tramadol, has been particularly high, with an increasing number of people initiating treatment for disorders related to tramadol use.


In this context, the UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa is supporting States in the region through various initiatives. In Senegal, UNODC has supported the establishment of the Centre for Integrated Addiction Management in Dakar, the ongoing training of specialists in several areas such as the Treatment Demand Indicator or TREATNET,  the launch of the first university degree on drug dependence in West Africa in 2018 and the Strong Families programme. UNODC has also supported the Ministry of Health and the 14 drug treatment centres in creating a uniform patient record, which aims to digitize records to obtain real-time data, facilitate the exchange of patient records between regions and institutions and integrate the data collected into the existing national health platform.

With regard to the fight against drug trafficking, the data collected in the World Drug Report 2020 also show a change in the situation.

For example, between 2013 and 2017, 20 per cent of all global seizures of cannabis herb and resin were made in Africa. North Africa accounted for 99 per cent of all cannabis resin seizures and 55 per cent of all cannabis herb seizures in Africa between 2013 and 2017.

In 2017, the amount of heroin seized in Africa tripled compared with 2013 and increased by 31 per cent compared with 2016 - a higher growth rate than the global average - mainly as a result of heroin trafficking from South-West Asia to or through East Africa.

Trafficking in tramadol for non-medical use is also a major threat in West, Central and North Africa. For example, seizures of tramadol in Africa increased from 8 tons in 2013 to 111 tons in 2017, accounting for 88 per cent of all tramadol seizures worldwide in 2017.

Seizures of methamphetamine manufactured locally (including in Western and Southern Africa) and destined for export, particularly to Asia, have also increased. Finally, Africa, particularly southern Africa, is also an important market for methaqualone, mainly produced in South Asia.

In this context, the UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa supports States in the region through several programmes such as the West African Coast Initiative (WACI), the Container Control Programme (CCP) and the Airport Communication Programme (AIRCOP) , which have contributed to the destabilization of criminal networks in countries of origin, transit and destination by strengthening the capacity to intercept and detect drugs and other illicit products.


Focus on Tramadol in West Africa


According to a study carried out between September 2018 and July 2019 by the UNODC Regional Office for West Africa on the traffic of tramadol and other pharmaceutical opioids in West Africa, the Trafficking in pharmaceutical opioids and their non-medical use have reached an alarming level in the region in recent years.

In Nigeria, for example, the prevalence of pharmaceutical opioid use in 2017 was estimated at 4.7 per cent of the population aged 15-64 years, mainly related to the non-medical use of tramadol.

Also in Nigeria, but also in parts of Lomé, Togo, pharmaceutical opioids, in particular tramadol, have been identified as the second most widely consumed drug after cannabis in 2017.

Recent seizures highlight the extent of trafficking in tramadol. The amount of tramadol seized in Nigeria almost doubled between 2016 and 2017, from 53 tons to over 92 tons.

In 2018, Nigerian law enforcement authorities reported the seizure of approximately 150 tons of tramadol in the country. In Côte d'Ivoire, approximately 44 tons of tramadol were seized from street markets in 2018, while more than 16 million tablets were intercepted in Niger.

According to official data, global seizures of tramadol in West Africa were equivalent to 88 per cent of all tramadol seizures in Africa and 77 per cent of all tramadol seizures globally in 2017. Tramadol also accounted for 82 per cent of all pharmaceutical opioids seized in West Africa in 2016 and 91 per cent in 2017.

Further information:

The World Drug Report is available here: