According to a UN report, the misuse of pharmaceutical opioids is fast becoming a “global epidemic”, with the largest quantities being seized in African countries for the second year in a row. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has revealed seizures in Africa of opioids now account for 87% of the global total.
The report said that while fentanyl and its analogues remain a problem in North America, tramadol – used to treat moderate and moderate-to-severe pain – has become a growing concern in parts of Africa and Asia.
Unlike in the US, the seizures – concentrated in west, central and north Africa – have largely consisted of the drug tramadol, followed by codeine.
The report noted that opioids were the most harmful global drug trend, accounting for 76% of deaths where drug-use disorders were implicated.
The findings of this year’s world drug report show that drug markets are expanding, with cocaine and opium production hitting absolute record highs, presenting multiple challenges on multiple fronts.
Despite the increase in availability and production, the report disclosed that the number of people worldwide using drugs at least once a year remained stable in 2016 at around 275 million people – or roughly 5.6% of the global population aged 15-64 years. Drug use among the older generation (aged 40 years and above) has been increasing at a faster rate than among those who are younger.
Despite that, global deaths directly caused by drugs use increased by 60% from 2000 to 2015, with mortality among people over the age of 50 increasing from 27% of these deaths in 2000 to 39% in 2015. About three-quarters of deaths from drug-use disorders among those aged 50 and older were among opioid users.