Estimates of the prevalence of cannabis and opioid use in West Africa and Central Africa remain higher than global averages. In the region, 10% of the population aged 15 to 64 used cannabis in 2021 and 1.2% of opioids, while global estimates are respectively 4.4% and 1.1%. The vast majority (70%) of people treated for drug-related disorders in Africa are under 35 years old.
Africa also remains a key transit region for cocaine in the west, heroin in the east, and cannabis resin in the north. In the Sahel, the amount of cocaine seized is sharply increasing (from 13 kg per year between 2015-2020 to over 35 kg in 2021 and 863 kg in 2022). Africa accounts for half of the quantities of pharmaceutical opioids, especially tramadol, seized globally between 2017-2021; these opioids are primarily consumed in the region.
"Drug traffickers and organized criminal groups are taking advantage of the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel to explore new routes and markets," said Dr. Amado Philip de Andrés, UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa, "This traffic affects the health of millions of people in the region and fuels conflicts by financing Sahelian armed groups."
Every year, UNODC celebrates the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26. This year's theme, People first: Stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention, underscores the need to better understand drug-related issues from a human rights-based approach to provide better care for people suffering from addiction and to dismantle traffickers' networks, especially in times of crisis.
Given the increasing psychosocial, economic, security, and health consequences of drug use in West and Central Africa, the lack of reliable data to assess the extent, patterns, and trends of this consumption is a major obstacle to prevention and demand reduction efforts in the region.
“Africa has long been considered simply as a transit area, which contributes to the invisibility of drug users and the emergence of local markets. States in the region must continue to invest in data production, particularly on consumption, for better care," emphasized Dr. Amado Philip de Andrés,
In the face of these challenges, West and Central African States have mobilized significant resources, with the support of UNODC and technical and financial partners, in improving prevention policies and combating drug use and trafficking. They continue to work in collaboration with the international community for drug data collection under the drug control conventions.