UNODC raises alarm over increasing opiod users in Nigeria

tramadol

The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (middle), and Customs chiefs after the seizure of tramadol cargo to Nigeria in 2018

The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (middle), and Customs chiefs after the seizure of tramadol cargo to Nigeria in 2018

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today issued a wake-up call to the Nigerian authorities over the increasing number of opiod users in the country.

In a fresh World Drug Report released in Vienna on Wednesday, the UN agency said new surveys about the phenomenon conducted in Nigeria, along with India, jacked up the global estimates of opiod users by 56 per cent in 2017, compared with 2016

Out of an estimated opioid users of 53 million worldwide, UNODC said 4.6million were in Nigeria.

World Drug Report

“In Nigeria, the prevalence of pharmaceutical opioids in 2017 was estimated at
4.7 per cent of the population aged 15–64 (corresponding to an estimated 4.6 million past-year users), most of which can be attributed to the non-medical use of tramadol and, to a lesser extent, the non-medical use of codeine and morphine”, the agency said.

The agency also revealed that opioids are responsible for two thirds of the 585,000 people who died worldwide as a result of drug use in 2017.

“The findings of this year’s World Drug Report fill in and further complicate the global picture of drug challenges, underscoring the need for broader international cooperation to advance balanced and integrated health and criminal justice responses to supply and demand,” said Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director.

The 2019 World Drug Report provides a global overview of the supply and demand of opiates, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances (NPS), as well as their impact on health. It highlights, through improved research and more precise data, that the adverse health consequences of drug use are more widespread than previously thought.

Here are excerpts from the report:

West and Central Africa is also a subregion with a high prevalence of non-medical use of opioids (1.9 per cent or an estimated 5 million opioid users),
which is dominated by the non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids, in particular of tramadol.

However, the lack of data on the prevalence of drug use in Africa makes it difficult to quantify its trends and level. In Nigeria, for example, the prevalence of pharmaceutical opioids in 2017 was estimated at
4.7 per cent of the population aged 15–64 (corresponding to an estimated 4.6 million past-year users), most of which can be attributed to the non-medical use of tramadol and, to a lesser extent, the non-medical use of codeine and morphine.

Europe

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The estimated prevalence of opioid use in Europe in 2017 was estimated at 0.7 per cent of the adult population, or nearly 3.8 million opioid users. In
Western and Central Europe, where there are an estimated 2 million opioid users (0.6 per cent of the adult population), the use of opioids is dominated
by heroin use. However, in recent years there have been indications of an increase in the non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids in the subregion, with methadone, buprenorphine and fentanyl reported as the main pharmaceutical opioids misused.

South America
The non-medical use of opioids in South America in 2017 was estimated at 0.2 per cent and 0.4 per cent, respectively. Most of the countries in those
subregions report the non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids more than of heroin. Among countries in South America, in Chile, one country where recent information on non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids has been reported, the past-year prevalence of non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids increased from 0.3 per cent in 2012 to 1.2 per cent in 2016. In 2016, the non-medical use of opioids was particularly high among women, although it has increased markedly among men as well as among the age groups 26–34 and 35–44.25

United States

In the United States of America, the increase in the non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids since 1997 has been attributed in part to a number of
reasons, including the organization of the health system’s structures for regulation and control of access to those drugs, prescription practices, the medical dispensing culture and patient expectations.

The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed from retail pharmacies in the United States increased from 174 million in 2000 to 256.9 million in 2009.

This increase in combination with high dosages and the longer duration of opioid prescriptions, primarily for the management of acute to chronic non-cancer pain, resulted in further diversion and misuse of pharmaceutical opioids and the development of opioid use disorders among users.

South Asia

In South Asia, 1.8 per cent of the adult population or 19 million people, comprising 35 per cent of the global estimate, are past-year opioids users.

These estimates are driven by India, where 2.1 per cent of the population aged 10–75, a total of 23 million people, are estimated to be past-year opioid users
(2018). Among opioids, heroin is the most prevalent substance, with a past-year prevalence of use of 1.1 per cent among the population aged 10–75, followed by non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids, the prevalence of which is almost 1 per cent of the general population, and opium, the prevalence of which is almost 0.5 per cent. The past-year use of opioids is much higher among men in general (4 per cent of the male population) than women (0.2
per cent of the female population).

Moreover, 1.8 per cent of adolescents aged 10–17 are estimated to be past-year opioid users. Of the total 23 million past-year opioid users, roughly one third, or 7.7 million people, are considered to be suffering from opioid use disorders in India. The states with the highest prevalence of opioid use in the country are those in the north-east (Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur), along with Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, in the north of the
country.