Is Ghana producing cocaine?

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A top Ghanaian psychiatrist and a member of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has kicked up some controversy by saying the West African state may be producing hard drugs.

Ghana does not produce coca or poppy but Dr Joseph Bediako Asare, retired chief psychiatrist, said on Tuesday that the INCB suspected there was small-scale manufacture of cocaine and heroin in the country.

The authorities have been worried about the tag of Ghana being a transit point of drugs from South America and Asia, given the huge drug seizures, some of which vanished into thin air. But this suspicion should get them to raise their surveillance to the highest level.

Undetected entry of chemicals

The Ghana News Agency quoted Dr Asare as saying there is overwhelming evidence of the availability of the chemicals used in producing illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin and amphetamine type stimulants in Ghana. These chemicals are used to refine the coca and opium, which are imported into the country.

“These chemicals come into the country … and they come through customs check points all the time but the officers are not able to detect them,” he said.

Dr Asare said even though the security agencies were aware of the availability of the illicit drugs precursor chemicals in the country, they remained somewhat aloof about it because they thought Ghanaians were innocent about their availability and use.

“We tend to think that our youth are innocent but they are gradually getting into the business of drug production and very soon if we do not stem the influx of the chemicals we will have a big drug problem on hand,” he warned.

He called on the government and its agencies responsible for the import of certain chemicals for legitimate purposes to do proper estimates before importing them to ensure that the exact quantities were imported to prevent excess chemicals from getting into the hands of the bad nuts.

Fighting trans-shipment

The report itself confirmed that drug traffickers were using Africa as a trans-shipment area for precursors such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine used for making amphetamine type stimulants.

“Weak legislation against trafficking in precursor chemicals in most of Africa makes it easy to obtain chemicals for illicit drug manufacture.”

It said Interpol estimated that 200-300 tons of cocaine made their way from Latin America into Europe through West Africa, where it was stockpiled and repackaged for transport.

The report said West African countries, mainly Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire lacked the economic means, legislative and institutional structures to counter the drug challenge effectively.

As a result Africa currently accounted for 7.6 per cent of all cocaine abusers in the world and the production and abuse of cannabis was also on the rise on the continent, the report said.

“Another problem in Africa is the misuse of pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance, which are sold by street vendors and healthcare providers without a prescription,” it said.

The report therefore called on African governments to address the problem, which has severe consequences on the health of the population and social fabric.


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