A report from the West African Drug Use Epidemiology Network (WENDU) highlights a substantial increase in drug consumption across West Africa. Over the past decade, the sub-region has transitioned from primarily a drug transit route to emerging as a significant consumer market.
The study, covering the period 2020-2022, underscores the weaknesses of national institutions, lack of socio-economic opportunities, political instability, and security crises as contributing factors. The report delves into the demographics of drug consumers, and the most prevalent substances, and proposes potential solutions.
The study reveals that individuals seeking treatment for addiction in West Africa encompass both men and women. Among men, cannabis tops the list of consumed substances, while women predominantly consume alcohol and pharmaceutical products.
The majority of consumers fall within the young demographic, with 86% of those treated for addiction falling in the 15-44 age group, and three-quarters of them being under 30.
Cannabis stands out as the most widely consumed drug in the region, owing to its ease of cultivation, accessibility, and affordability compared to other substances. Opioids, such as tramadol, also exhibit significant prevalence.
The report recommends solutions such as exploring alternative uses for cannabis, which could provide more lucrative opportunities for producers, thereby limiting its recreational use. Additionally, establishing prevention and treatment services to address the lack of healthcare infrastructure and investing in mental health, especially for the youth who are most vulnerable, are suggested as crucial steps.
On the ground, organizations like the Blue Cross of Togo are actively engaged in raising awareness and providing care for drug users. Isidore Motchon Ayaovi, project coordinator at the NGO, notes a noticeable increase in the number of drug consumers in recent years, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic.