By Nelson Manneh
The Minister of Interior, Seyaka Sonko, has said that the country’s only psychiatric hospital has reported a significant increase in the admission and treatment of drug-induced psychosis cases.
The interior minister made these statements over the weekend as he addressed the public on the eve of the commemoration of world drug day 2022.
26th June 2022 marks the commemoration of the International Day against Drug Abuse and licit Drug Trafficking also referred to as World Drug Day.
This day has been set aside as an expression and determination of the international community’s resolve to strengthen actions and cooperation in the crusade on licit drug trafficking, drug abuse, and related activities after the General Assembly passed resolution 42/112 on the 7th December 1987.
Minister Sonko said the day is also used by Anti-Narcotic institutions and partners to take stock of their achievements over the years, highlight challenges as well as draw public attention to the dangers and perils of drug abuse, illicit drug trafficking, and related crimes.
“The commemoration provides an opportunity to initiate support for evidence-based prevention and treatment programs and activities through investment in the health and well-being of children, youth, and the society at large,” he said.
He said the theme for this year’s commemoration is “ADDRESSING DRUG CHALLENGES IN HEALTH AND HUMANITARIAN CRISES”. According to him, this year, they are commemorating the day at a time when the world is overwhelmed with humanitarian crises as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and instability in some parts of the world.
“Despite all these challenges and proven dangers, the world drug report 2021 indicates that around 275 million people used drugs over the years. This figure is a 22 % increase from 2010. The report also estimated an 11 % global increase in drug use by 2030 and it is further projected that Africa alone will account for 40 % of such increase,” he said.
Sonko further said the report highlighted a substantial disconnect between real risk and public perception regarding the usage of cannabis. He said while the potency of cannabis quadrupled, there was a 40 % decrease in the perception of the harmful effect of cannabis.
“This projected trend is worrying and it should be a cause for concern for us as a nation and Africans as a continent. If Africa alone is projected to account for 40 % global increase in addition to a 40% reduction in the perception of youth who perceive cannabis to be harmless, then we must heighten our surveillance, strengthen our resolve to curb drugs, and increase public awareness about the dangers of licit drug and related activities,” he indicated.
Minister Sonko said the outcomes of the devastating consequences of drugs are insurmountable, noting that in 2019 alone, it is revealed that drug use killed almost half a million people while drug use disorder resulted in 18 million years of healthy life lost.
He said drug traffickers continue to use sophisticated methods to traffic their illicit products and that traffickers have now resorted to using larger shipment sizes, increased usage of private aircraft, water routes, and contactless methods to deliver their illicit products to end-users. This challenge, according to him, is further compounded by the advent of New Psychoactive Substances and the threat of illicit drug trafficking and abuse on economic and social development.
“At the national level, the Drug Law Enforcement Agency, The Gambia (DLEAG) registered one thousand six hundred and ninety-eight (1698) cases involving one thousand six hundred and ninety-nine (1699) accused persons from 2020 to date,” he said.
As a government, he said they will ensure that they capacitate and equip DLEAG to implement a balanced strategy in solving the world drug problem in tandem with internationally recognized standards. He emphasized that while they address the challenges of the drug situation in the midst of global health and humanitarian crises, they are determined to dismantle any organized criminal network that may emerge in the country’s jurisdiction.
“We will deal with any such group without negotiation to safeguard our youth from misery and the suffering caused by drugs. We will also continue to intensify our drug demand reduction initiatives and programs,” he said.
However, the minister called on civil society organizations, youth groups, community-based organizations, and all relevant stakeholders to complement the government’s efforts and participate in drug prevention programs and initiatives. He also called on the public to be vigilant and report suspicious drug-related or criminal activities to law enforcement officers.
“It is only through collaboration and collective participation that we can make our community safe, secure and drug-free,” he said.