Today, more than 7 million people suffer from an illicit drug disorder, and one in four deaths results from illicit drug use. In fact, more deaths, illnesses and disabilities are associated with drug abuse than any other preventable health condition. People suffering from drug and alcohol addiction also have a higher risk of unintentional injuries, accidents and domestic violence incidents.
Illicit drugs affects the health systems in various ways:
• Weakens the immune system – increasing the risk of illness and infection.
• Heart conditions ranging from abnormal heart rates to heart attacks and collapsed veins and blood vessel infections from injected drugs.
• Nausea and abdominal pain, which can also lead to changes in appetite and weight loss
• Increased strain on the liver, which puts the person at risk of significant liver damage or liver failure.
• Seizures, stroke, mental confusion and brain damage
• Lung disease
• Problems with memory, attention and decision-making, which make daily living more difficult.
According to UN statistics 37,000 people in Africa die annually from diseases associated with the consumption of illegal drugs. The UN estimates there are 28 million drug users in Africa, Cameroon inclusive. Most often youths have been identified to be more vulnerable to drug abuse due to peer pressure and to escape their troubles.
The government of Cameroon has in recent years intensify the fight against illicit drugs by creating awareness on the effects of these drugs on the community especially in schools. Students have been hurt by their peers under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Traveling agencies are not left out as many drug vendors sell these drugs in buses especially to women, who are always worried about their reproductive health. They are often fed with wrong information while presenting these drugs as “miracle drugs”.
The government has often match these awareness campaigns with field works where some of these drugs are confiscated.
On the 24th of April 2019, the North West Regional committee charged with the fight against illicit drugs seized a consignment of illicit drugs worth 5 million francs CFA from illegal vendors in some markets in the North West Region. The committee led by the North West Regional governor, Adolfe LeLe L’Afrique carried out the operation in order to discourage the heartless plethoric criminals who are multiplying networks to distribute their fake products. Pharmaceutical products found on the street or with an illegal vendor are potentially dangerous for the consumer. Either the quality is doubtful, or the expiring dates are questionable. Many of these drugs are regularly tested at the North West Special Funds for Health to assess the quality. Some include:
* Tetanus Antitoxin
* Phosphalugel among others
Recently, the renowned Hydrochlorothiazide (HCT) 50mg, a diuretic medication often used to treat high blood patients was tested by the above mentioned structure. The result was shocking. It was containing Glibenclamide 5mg, an active ingredient meant for some particular conditions notably diabetes type II patients. Many sides’ effects were reported after consuming this drug and no improvement on the patient’s conditions were noted. This drug has killed two persons in the region. Just this case can tell us how street drugs can be damaging to our health system.
The confiscated drugs were destructed within the premises of the Regional Delegation of Public Health under the close supervision and follow up of members of the regional Committee for fight against illegal drugs in the North West Region. The Governor who was represented by the Inspectorate general Mr. Nkwende Divine, flanked with the close collaborator, the Regional Delegate for Public Health Dr. CHE Kingsley, ensured the SOPs and other procedures were respected.
The recently installed incinerator in the region was used for the operation. Some minutes after, the drugs were reduced into ashes under 8500 degree C, the requiring prevailing temperature in the incinerator.
It worth noting that on Monday the 22nd of April, the confiscated drugs were official presented to the governor and other officials. The governor reiterated the engagement of the government to protect the citizens and to punish defaulters. Other field actions will take place in upcoming days to serve the common interest of the population and ensure their health safety.
Maikem Emmanuela Manzie