By JS Rafaeli, for Vice
There has been a rise in reports about the escalating use of the prescription drug Tramadol, a synthetic opioid roughly one tenth as strong as morphine, in Africa. Much of the rhetoric echoes the situation in the United States – blaming an incipient ‘African opioid crisis’ for everything from psychosis to the rise of Boko Haram.
There is certainly some kind of crisis in Africa. While the world’s attention has been focused on the epidemic in the US, UN figures indicate that opioid seizures in Africa now actually account for 87 percent of the global total – with annual seizures in sub-Saharan Africa soaring from 300kg to three tons between 2013 and 2017.
African nations now stand at a pivotal crossroads in how to deal with this issue. In late 2018, Egypt formally moved to place Tramadol under international controls – with the same restrictions as morphine and other medical opioids. It is a move being considered by the UN.