As purveyors of civic education in the country, the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) is privileged to join the world in marking this year’s World Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. With the theme: “Better Knowledge for Better Care” the Commission is enthused by the emphasis being laid on the need to improve the understanding of the world drug problem, in order to foster better knowledge about the effects of the drugs and illicit trafficking on lives and to up our game to counter its impact on health, governance and security.
In its 2019 World Drug Report, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), estimates that nearly 200 million people are using illicit drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogens, opiates and sedative hypnotics worldwide. The Global Burden of the Disease in 2017 estimates that there were 585,000 deaths and 42 million years of “healthy” life lost as a result of the use of drugs.
According to Lucia Bird’s Domestic Drug Consumption in Ghana 2019 report, published by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, the drug-consumption patterns in Ghana have since 2010 increased and trended towards polysubstance abuse. She further noted that the non-medical use of prescription drugs was becoming a major threat, especially with different pharmaceutical opioids being misused in different regions.
In fact, the spike in the misuse of tramadol, an opioid painkiller prescribed for pain relief, particularly among the Ghanaian youth is distressing. The Domestic Drug Consumption in Ghana 2019 report, indicate the endemic use of drugs across Ghana’s social demographic range.
It is worth noting that Ghana’s Narcotic Drugs Control, Enforcement and Sanctions Law, 1990, prohibits the possessions of the narcotic drugs. The law provides that when “any person who, without lawful authority, proof of which shall be on him, has in his possession or under his control any narcotic drug commits an offence” and shall be convicted and liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years. This basically means that the possession or wrongful use of drug and trafficking of illicit drugs is an offence under the law.
The NCCE is of the view that openly discriminating against people who abuse drugs (drug addicts) and the social stigma attached to drug users, does not only act as a barrier to their access to medical care and other support services such as rehabilitation care but increases the risk of the transmission of other diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis, and other health issues unrelated to drug use. This phenomenon could affect the attainment of SDG 3, since it increases the risks of health harm and limiting access to medical care for people who use drugs, and their communities by overly restricting access to essential medicines for pain relief and palliative care. As enshrined in Article 15 (1) of the 1992 Constitution that, “The dignity of all persons shall be inviolable”. The Commission calls on Ghanaians to show support to those suffering from drug abuse instead of publicly humiliating and condemning them.
The window for us to learn and improve our knowledge on how drug abuse and trafficking of illicit drugs affect us all could help us reduce the stigma associated to our brothers and sisters reeling under the scourge of drug abuse. They certainly need help in terms of medical care, supportive services including rehabilitation, counselling and support of their families and communities to help them recover from their addiction.
To improve better knowledge for better carein this time of COVID-19, the Commission encourages individuals, families, non-profit organisations, the private sector and the government to join the campaign against drug abuse and illicit trafficking on this day and to draw greater attention for the need to care and support persons suffering from drug disorders. This way, we can win the fight against drug abuse and illicit trafficking of drugs.