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Opium Abuse in Africa

Opium Abuse in AfricaAccording to an 1882 article in The New York Times, opium was first planted for cultivation in Africa in 1870. Most of the opium produced at this time was controlled by the British and sent to India after being refined into powder. While British colonists may have liked to think they introduced this cash crop to the country, IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis reports that opium plants may have originated in Northwest Africa, France, and Spain. Despite this early start at opium manufacturing, production of the drug never took off in Africa. Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries are today’s biggest suppliers of the drug and related opiates such as heroin.

Africa’s Role in Opium and Opiate Trafficking

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime published a threat assessment in July 2011 entitled, “The Global Afghan Opium Trade.” This report reveals that in 2009 40-45 tons of Afghan heroin passed through Africa. While much of the opium was used on the continent, countries such as Nigeria and South Africa served as hubs for redistribution to Europe, China, and Australia. Organized Nigerian criminal groups control much of the arrival and trade of heroin in Africa, and 32% of drug trafficking arrests in Pakistan involve Nigerians.

Opiate Use in Africa

A United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report on the opium/heroin market noted that raw opium isn’t as commonly used as its opiate derivatives. In 2008 there were an estimated 4 million raw opium users, and most raw opium is consumed in Asia due to culture and tradition. According to the United Nations threat assessment publication, Egypt reported 126,000 opium abusers within the country and placed consumption of opium at 44 tons of the drug. Information gathered from across the African continent found that 24 tons of heroin was consumed in 2009. Since official reports are hard to come by, there is little official data about opium, opiate and heroin use in the country, but available information suggests that most heroin is used in East, West, and Central Africa. The drug is typically low in purity and is smoked by itself or with marijuana rather than injected. Intravenous users risk HIV/AIDS infection, as needles are often shared in this continent that already has staggeringly high levels of the disease.

Addiction Treatment Needs

According to a 2007 article in Thaindian News in South Africa, 8.5 percent of addictions treated in 2007 were for heroin, which was an increase from just 1 percent in 1996. As abuse of opium and related drugs becomes a greater problem in Africa and around the world, there is a greater need for addiction treatment and recovery resources.

Find Opium and Opiate Addiction Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with opium or opiate addiction, please call our toll-free helpline. Admissions coordinators are here 24 hours a day to connect you with the best options for you or a loved one’s recovery. Let us help you arrange treatment, organize family mediation, or take the first steps towards a healthy life. All calls are confidential. You have nothing to lose and a drug-free life to gain, so please call today.