In 2006, Drugs, Victims and Race: The Politics of Drug Control
) was published by Waterside Press. Nine years later, Pan-African Issues in Drugs and Drug Control: An International Perspective
is set to reiterate the underlying purpose of the 2006 book, which was expressed in a number of critical issues about race and drugs, some of which are regurgitated here in three key points. One, the drug problem has claimed and is still claiming many victims across the globe regardless of geographical location, race, ethnicity, class, gender, age and other sociodemographic orientations. Directly or indirectly, and across individual societies, everyone is somehow either an actual or a potential victim of the drug problem, whether it is in terms of drug demand or drug supply. Beyond the many direct negative consequences on the drug user are the numerous spread effects of the drug problem on others, including those who are victims of acquisitive crimes committed by drug addicts to fund a drug habit, those whose run-down neighborhoods are partly a consequence of drug using and dealing activities in their neighborhoods, and the taxpayers whose hard-earned incomes are partly diverted to treatment services for drug users and other health outcomes of drug use such as HIV/AIDS. The same taxpayers make financial contributions to the war on drugs including the running of prisons where drug offenders are housed during their term of imprisonment.
Two, across the globe, drug offenses form one of the categories of offenses that attract the most severe penalties. Thailand’s death penalty approach to drug trafficking has not been exceptional since Nigeria once adopted that strategy. In the West, the ultimate punitive attack against drug trafficking is demonstrated in lengthy prison sentences, including a maximum of life imprisonment and asset confiscation as exemplified in the British approach. Despite the key message gleaned from such forms of crusade, which is that drug trafficking is a global enemy, it is nevertheless an activity that has continued to be sustained by drug demand, and consequently has continued to be attacked by the western-led war on drugs. In this war, drug production sources fall victim to western attack, including the poor farmers whose impoverished economic circumstances have resulted in their engagement in coca bush, opium poppy and cannabis cultivation. With reference to drug trafficking, direct victims of the drug war are often composed of people of non-European origin, who have over the years acquired the stereotype of the domestic or international drug trafficker. Thus, people of African descent, including the African Diaspora, and those from Latin America and Asia, have at various points been a prime target of western-led drugs law enforcements at external or internal borders.
And three, the drug problem is a global phenomenon. The demand for drugs and their supply are activities which complement each other. They co-exist and inevitably need each other for survival. Both function globally. Drug demand cuts across nations around the world including drug producing and transit nations. In a similar vein, drug production is not only confined to drug producing countries outside the West. Drug supply itself operates in a complex network intersecting nations on each side of the globe. This globalized relationship in drug production and supply does not function in a vacuum but requires a human labor force to sustain its existence. Invariably, therefore, it must cut across geographical, racial, ethnic, class and gender boundaries in order to maintain this crucial relationship. A key message is that drug demand is not a problem that is restricted to the West and to people of European origin. Likewise, drug supply is not simply a non-western or non-European activity.
With a focus on people of African descent in Africa and in the Diaspora, Pan-African Issues in Drugs and Drug Control: An International Perspective
aims to incorporate the experiences of African peoples, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, in the actualities of the global drug problem through an examination of drug use, drug trafficking and drug control in 16 countries in Africa, the Americas and Europe collectively. In alphabetical order of regions and countries, they are: in Africa—Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe; in the Americas—Brazil, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and the Virgin Islands; and in Europe—Britain and Italy. While there are emerging book publications on the drug scene in parts of Africa, and the Caribbean, for example (see, for example, Carrier and Klantschnig, 2012
; Beckerleg, 2010
; Gastrow, 2011
; Griffith, 2000
; Klein et al., 2004
), what is available in mainstream market is still minimal in comparison to the vast number of published volumes on various aspects of drugs—from use, trafficking to control—in reference to western societies. This dearth of information is more severe in transnational comparative studies of the drug problem. This edited book is an attempt to fill this gap in the drugs literature, by incorporating pan-African issues in drug use/abuse, drug supply/trafficking, and drug control in the international comparative body of knowledge on the global drug problem. Some of the issues are elaborated below.
Demand for Drugs
The United Nations (UN) (2002
, p.8) provides a glimpse of the worldwide setting of the drug problem thus:
Contrary to expectations that drugs illicitly produced in a country would only be transported to illicit markets outside the country, experience has shown that most countries in which illicit drugs are produced and transit countries eventually face their own domestic drug abuse problems, as spillover is a common phenomenon. Local drug trafficking groups, which assist in the transit operations, are often paid in kind, and they sell their share of illicit [drugs] in order to generate income. As they rarely have access to foreign markets, they sell the drugs locally.
Drug producing and transit countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, with a predominant or significant black population, have had and still have their own share of problems that emanate from drug demand. Many African countries, particularly those that are a hub or a transit point for international drug trafficking, are threatened by illegal drug abuse. According to the UN (2002
), a variety of illegal drugs are abused in parts of Africa. For example, heroin and opiates are abused in eastern and southern parts of Africa, and to a lesser degree in the western and northern parts, and cocaine is abused in “almost all countries in the southern and western parts of Africa, in particular in Nigeria and South Africa” (p.33). In recent years, heroin use has been on the increase in particularly East and West Africa in line with the increase in heroin trafficking in this sub-regions and the spillover outcome of such trade. Respectively, both sub-regions are entry and exit points for heroin from Afghanistan (International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), 2013
Of all illegal drugs, cannabis is the most used/abused across Africa, and this is principally because cannabis cultivation is carried out in many parts of the region, so that its sale and consumption domestically are consistent with
its widespread cultivation (UN, 2002
; INCB, 2013
). Psychotropic drugs such as amphetamines and ecstasy are not unknown in Africa (UN, 2002
). While amphetamine-type drugs were seemingly contained in Southern Africa in the early 21st century, recent findings pronounce the trafficking and abuse of this category of substances as an emerging new threat to Africa, considering its spread to West and East Africa (INCB, 2013
Drug use/abuse in Africa is complicated by the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS infection, a health dilemma that has over the years taken its toll on sub-Saharan Africa, primarily due to unprotected sex, and in recent years due to emerging engagements in intravenous drug use in parts of this region (United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)/World Health Organization (WHO), 2006
), and in particular East Africa where heroin use is on the increase (INCB, 2013
). Unsafe sexual and injecting practices are a potential influence on HIV transmission. As of 2006, 63% of the world’s population living with HIV was located in sub-Saharan Africa, and during this period, “almost three quarters (72%) of all adult and child deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa …” (UNAIDS/WHO, 2006
, p.3). The deaths occurred despite efforts to improve access to antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS victims (ibid.).
The Caribbean has shared the same drug-related health predicaments. In the mid-1990s, Lusane (2000
, p.54) notes, drug use in the Caribbean made a significant contribution to the “spread of AIDS” and registered “the highest per capita prevalence of HIV in the world, 1.9 percent, outside of sub-Saharan Africa.” Citing statistical data from the Caribbean Epidemiology Center, Lusane states that the number of AIDS cases “grew by 13.3 percent in 1993 from the year before, by 19.2 percent in 1994, and 22.5 percent in 1995” (ibid., p.55). In 2006, there was an increase from 2004 in the number of people living with HIV in the Caribbean (UNAIDS/WHO, 2006
). The Caribbean-type relationship between HIV/AIDS and drug use is linked significantly to sexual behaviors in the region, specifically in regard to unprotected sex. An increase in crack cocaine and heroin use and addiction in the Caribbean resulted in an increase in drug-related unprotected sex, and prostitution, and related to these, an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS. According to the UN (2002
), the increase in the use of cocaine, not only in the Caribbean, but also in South America is primarily the product of a “spillover of the transit traffic.” In the Caribbean, an estimated two-thirds of those who consume cocaine do so in the form of crack (ibid.). Black communities in parts of Latin America suffer the problems of drug abuse alongside other negative consequences, such as drug-related violence, that result from the drug trade (see Harris, 2012
; Urrea-Giraldo, 2012
). Lusane (2000
) draws attention to the destructive effects that crack cocaine have had on “the black and Indian populations of the Atlantic coast” in Nicaragua, a country where crack addiction rates for Black and Indian communities have been known to be significantly high.
Crack cocaine use and addiction are common among the African Diaspora in drug destination countries of the West. For example, in the United States (U.S.), the use of crack cocaine in African-American communities is well-documented, including the relationships between drug abuse and mental health, and intravenous drug use, unprotected sex and HIV/AIDS. Blacks are among the racial minorities disproportionately affected by HIV (UNAIDS/WHO, 2006
). Another example, across the Atlantic, is Britain. This European country has a high rate of drug use and dependency, and tough drug control policies; it has an African-Caribbean community with a history of significant problems with crack cocaine use. In the UK’s 2008 Drug Strategy
(Home Office, 2008
), crack users and certain Black communities are among the groups identified as “most at risk” and in need of targeting for drug treatment (also see Kalunta-Crumpton, 2006
). Blacks in western societies are not immune from the problem of drug use/abuse, despite variations in knowledge or level of Black people’s drug use/abuse in individual countries. The chapters on Britain, Canada, Italy, and the U.S., in differing ways, explore aspects of drug use/abuse from which to allude to the experiences of people of African descent in western societies.
In general, people of African descent across parts of the globe where drugs pose a threat are hard-hit by the ramifications of drugs. This racial group of people, wherever they are resident, is typically faced with problems of socioeconomic deprivation and poverty—factors that have also continued to critically compound the problem of drug use and its related predicaments of unsafe sex and injecting practices etc. The scenario is probably more telling when we consider licit drugs, particularly in parts of Africa where psychotropic substances (including those found in pharmaceuticals), alcohol, precursors, and stimulants such as kola nut, khat and tobacco are unregulated. Access to such drugs in corner stores/stalls and pharmacies is easy, even to children. The INCB (2013
, p.53) considers “prescription drugs on unregulated markets” a “serious problem faced by many African countries.” It adds that “often those drugs have been diverted or are counterfeit, and they contain controlled substances, possibly amphetamine-type stimulants, as well as sedatives and tranquillizers.” It is unclear how many health hazards and deaths result from the availability, easy access and the accustomed use by many Africans of these free-for-all substances.
Despite such negative ramifications of drug use/abuse, drug demand control, through drug treatment and drug prevention initiatives, is not popular in government drug policy and practice, relative to drug supply control, in various parts of the world. While these drug control options are not unknown in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, these regions, nonetheless, tend to follow in the footstep of the West, notably the U.S., in prioritizing the law enforcement approach, including international drugs law enforcement cooperation, to the drug problem.