Trojan News :: Real Time News

Global

Potent Synthetic Opioids Found In Africa For The First Time

FOR the first time, traces of highly potent synthetic opioids known as nitazenes have been detected in drug samples consumed by people in Africa, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC).

Nitazenes, which are significantly more powerful than heroin and fentanyl, have been associated with overdose deaths in Western countries and Asia. These opioids can be up to 100 times more potent than heroin and up to 10 times more potent than fentanyl, making even small amounts extremely dangerous and increasing the risk of overdose and death.

Advertisement

The GI-TOC report focused on Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau, where chemical analysis of a drug known as kush—a cannabis derivative mixed with synthetic drugs like fentanyl and tramadol, as well as chemicals like formaldehyde—revealed alarming results. In Sierra Leone, 83 percent of the kush samples tested contained nitazenes, while in Guinea-Bissau, the figure was 55 percent.

‘The GI-TOC believes that these results are the first indication that nitazenes have penetrated retail drug markets in Africa,’ the report stated.

Impact on youth and drug use

Drug addiction is a growing concern in West and Central Africa, with between 5.2 percent and 13.5 percent of young people using cannabis, the most widely used illicit substance on the continent, according to the World Health Organization.

In Sierra Leone, where kush is a widely consumed drug, President Julius Maada Bio has declared a war on the substance, labelling it an epidemic and a national threat.

The presence of nitazenes in substances sold to young people raises significant concerns. The report warned that users are likely ingesting these potent opioids without understanding the risks, which could lead to a spike in overdose deaths.

Call for action

The report urged officials in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau to deploy chemical testing equipment as a crucial step in tackling drug abuse. ‘Without this, it is impossible for the governments to accurately monitor the countries’ illicit drug markets and develop evidence-based responses,’ the report emphasised.

The findings suggest that nitazenes are being imported into Sierra Leone from other regions and that the substance sold as kush in Guinea-Bissau shares a similar chemical composition to that found in Freetown.

As nitazenes make their way into Africa’s drug markets, the urgency to address this new threat cannot be overstated. Comprehensive chemical testing and stringent monitoring are essential to curb the spread of these dangerous substances and protect vulnerable populations from the severe risks they pose.

About The Author