It is estimated that over forty-five thousand (45000) Ghanaians of school going age are involved in the abuse of one illicit drug or the other. This worrying information was disclosed in the latest United Nations world report on drug use.
These drug users can be found in the 275 administrative districts in all the 10 regions of the country, and most of them are students from junior, senior high schools or tertiary institutions and are aged between 12 and 35 years.
This menace is gradually submerging the country’s youth, affecting productivity and the nation’s economy as a whole. It jeopardizes economic growth and causes immeasurable harm to public health, peaceful development and smooth functioning of societies.
The problem illicit drugs use poses is complex because they are addictive, a fact that blurs the dividing line between consumption and addiction.
The problem from an economic perspective is more heartbreaking in view of the huge estimated incomes of the global illicit drug industry. Due to the clandestine nature of the industry, its complexity, assumptions on operations, estimates the turnover vary considerably, from about US$ 100 billion to more than US$ 1,000 billion a year.
The most frequently found figures range from $300 billion to $500 billion a year and seem
to be the most reasonable estimates. One United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP) estimate global illicit drug sales to consumers, gives a figure close to $400 billion. A similar revenue was also estimated by the International Criminal Police Organization/ Interpol.
Such a proceeds is equivalent to approximately 8 per cent of total international trade and larger than the international trade in iron, steel and motor vehicles (2.8 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively). It is approximately the same size as the international trade in textiles (7.5 per cent), oil and gas (8.6 per cent) and world tourism.
The estimate is significantly larger than the global revenue of all pharmaceutical companies (assessed at $233 billion in 1993) and approximately six times larger than the amount spent on official development assistance ($69 billion in 1995).
In Ghana, in spite of current stringent laws that met severe punishment on illicit drug users in the country, the act is spreading speedily among the youth. The United Nations report also ranked Ghana as the leading user of Marijuana in Africa and third in the world.
In order to deal with this problem which is not peculiar to only Ghana, the West African Commission on Drugs (WACD) is calling on West African states to treat drug use as a public health problem and invest in treatment services.
It also recommends the reformation of laws and policies on drugs which includes the decriminalization of minor and non-violent offenses and capacity development of an effective penal system.
WACD demands that West African states, especially Ghana, need to tackle the impact of drugs through informed, humane, and coordinated policy. It also aims to change laws and policies which impede access to harm reduction interventions and also promote the respect for the human rights of people who use drugs.
Drugs are generally defined as substances other than food, which are taken to change the way the body or the mind functions. These drugs could come from plants growing wild in the fields or they could be manufactured in the laboratory. They could also be categorized into legal, illegal, or harmful. These drugs are considered abused when the user deliberately uses it for non-medical purposes, as well as the arbitrary use without medical prescription.
Drug or substance abuse comes in various shades. This involves taking too much of a drug at one time or small doses at shorter intervals. Taking a drug at regular intervals but far beyond the duration given or taking it for a wrong reason is also abuse.
A drug again can be abused if it is taken in combinations with other drugs knowingly or unknowingly. More often users move from one drug to another and use combinations of different substances.
Some of these combinations could be so dangerous to the extent of causing sudden death. People abuse drugs for various reasons and these may range from curiosity, availability and previous drug use to emotional and social pressures.
In view of this, the Drug Law Enforcement Unit of the Ghana Police Service has hinted it will embark on an outreach program for students and teachers in the various educational institutions about the negative implications of the use of illicit drugs.
The unit advised in a statement that the fight against the use of illicit drugs should be a concern to everyone. It pleaded with parents and teachers to closely monitor their wards in schools and at home.
By: Afia Nyarko Asare