Editorial: Are we prepared to deal with seemingly harmless but deadly drugs?

Bring up the subject of illegal highly addictive drugs and the first to come to mind, among the many in circulation, would be cocaine, heroin, or marijuana.

Then there is what is known as designer drugs that can easily be manufactured in garages at home such as methamphetamines, LSD, etc.

The designer drugs usually come in the form of tablets, are cheap and easy to conceal in deceptive packaging. Authorities are fighting a losing battle with the drug trade because it’s a lucrative business with endless supply and users.

Now, there is a new threat that is much more addictive than traditional drugs and easily accessible; opioids. As usual, new recreational drugs get their stamp of approval in the US which also has one of the highest drug-related deaths through overdose.

Tramadol, a pain reliever, is one of those opioids causing a lot of countries sleepless nights that the US has classified it as a controlled substance.

But Africa is also now in the crosshairs, both as a transit route and consumer. A short while ago, Nigerian authorities seized half a billion Tramadol tablets destined for Benin, said to be the largest destination of Indian Tramadol.

But Nigeria has even more worries; Codeine-based cough syrup that is causing havoc among its youth. It is an over-the-counter medication with a deadly secret that has ensnared thousands of victims.

Rwanda has not been spared though it could be said that drug abuse is still relatively low. But the government says it is spending over Frw100 billion every year rehabilitating drug users.

Whatever steps the government takes, it will have to be vigilant: Cough syrup is easily available and a Coded Medicine list published by the Ministry of Health has Tramadol on numbers 0625, 0626 and 0627, in both tablet and injection form. How safe are we from the new threat?