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Consumption of illegal drugs in Africa is projected to become a public health emergency, according to a new research outcome published on Thursday.

The new research analysis of Africa’s drug trade, policy and future consumption trends by the ENACT transnational organized crime program, which was published in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Thursday, warned that Africa “faces a substantial increase in illegal drug use, fuelled by organized crime and ineffective policy.”

“In the next 30 years, sub-Saharan Africa will see the world’s biggest surge in illicit drug users, with its share of global drug consumption projected to double,” the research outcome read.

The research also anticipated that by 2050 there will be an additional 14 million Africans using illegal drugs, with a total of 23 million users in sub-Saharan Africa.

The continent has also dominated a global expansion of non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids, with 87 percent of global seizures in 2016, it added.

According to the research findings, East Africa will experience the sharpest increase in the proportion of its population using illicit drugs, while West Africa is set to remain the continent’s largest regional drug market.

West Africa’s role has also expanded as a global trafficking hub for drugs, particularly cocaine, the research noted, in which the region’s drug users will more than double from about 5.7 million in 2018 to 13 million in 2050. An underground economy has developed around the production and distribution of methamphetamines, particularly in Nigeria.

“Africa’s dangerous drugs phenomenon is driven by weak regulation and organized criminals operating across national borders. It is assisted by global production of cocaine and heroin to levels the 2018 World Drug Report says are the highest ever recorded,” it added.

It also indicated that a growing heroin economy has emerged from the international drug smuggling route down the East coast of Africa for shipment to international markets.

African consumption of illegal drugs is also projected “to become a public health emergency but the continent has a dramatic inability to meet the demand for treatment.”

It also warned that use of injected drugs like heroin risks another spike in HIV and other diseases, and the growing significance of Africa as a drug transportation hub “will place enormous strain on law enforcement.”

According to ENACT, African drug markets are becoming ever more sophisticated and increasingly take advantage of secure innovations such as blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies and trading platforms on the dark web.

The research also stressed that African drug policy is complex and controversial, in which previous attempts to respond to drug trade and consumption have done “a disproportionate amount of harm with limited results.”

“Continental drug markets continued to expand even as illicit crops were destroyed, drug users imprisoned, illicit labs dismantled, and drug shipments seized,” it said, adding that there is “a growing evidence base for the human and economic costs of the failing war on drugs, with health institutions and civil society voices pushing for a new direction in drug policy.”

ENACT is a partnership between the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), INTERPOL and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI), funded by the European Union. The research was released in Addis Ababa on Thursday. Enditem

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