Drug use and trafficking of synthetic opioids growing in Africa

Africa remains one of the major transit regions for cocaine trafficking and is growing as a drug market, according to a UN report that says there is a "worrying" increase in synthetic opioids in the region.

According to the annual report of the UN's International Narcotics Control Board (ICNB), presented today in Vienna (Austria), the African continent has become a major cocaine transit region.

"While West and Central Africa used to be the main transit areas in Africa for cocaine trafficking, the North African subregion accounted for 69 percent of all cocaine seized in 2016, and the quantities seized doubled from the previous year," reads the report.

The document also shows that the continent, which is one of the main transit regions for drug trafficking, is also growing as a market for various drugs, especially cocaine, heroin and cannabis.

Cannabis remains Africa's favorite drug, but studies in some countries show an increase in the consumption of other illegal substances.

The ICNB also calls attention to the "growing" and "worrying" increase in the consumption and trafficking of synthetic opioids in some African regions, particularly tramadol.

As for Portuguese-speaking countries, Mozambique is mentioned in the document as one of the countries of transit or destination for precursors, i.e. chemicals used in the manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

The report also says that Portuguese authorities believe that Mozambique may have become a new portal for the entry of heroin into Portugal.

Cape Verde is praised for the carrying out of school surveys on health and substance use and for strengthening the country's capacity to counter drug trafficking after receiving 12 patrol boats from the US military Africa Command (AFRICOM).

The INCB report says there is insufficient regulation of medical cannabis programs worldwide, arguing that they may lead to increased use of this drug for recreational purposes, and calls for new measures regarding Afghanistan, where there has been a significant opium production increase in 2017.

The INCB (International Narcotics Control Board) is an independent body comprised of 13 members, which are elected by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Three of the members are proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the remaining 10 are selected from a list of experts submitted by the Member States.