For decades, illegal drugs have been a blight on our world’s landscape, with millions of lives destroyed every year. Illegal substances are responsible for the deaths of 750,000 people across the globe every year, many of whom are young people and teenagers.
While there are a great many different drugs which contribute to this problem, including opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine, heroin remains a major cause of drug deaths. As well as the threat to human life, heroin is also the cause of a great deal of crime across the world; something which governments are constantly battling to control.
For those concerned in the supply of drugs sentencing guidelines, many feel that stricter sentences would be extremely helpful, whereas, others feel that education and support are the way forward. In this article, we discuss this idea further through comparing UK and African heroin use. Take a look…
What is Heroin ?
Heroin is an extremely addictive drug which derives from morphine; a substance which is created from the seed pod of poppy plants. Heroin usually has the appearance of a white or brown powder and can be smoked. However, the most common method of consumption is by dissolving the powder and injecting it into a vein.
The addictive and dangerous nature of heroin has been highlighted in popular films such as Trainspotting, in which the lives of the main characters were severely impacted by their addiction to the drug. Heroin is largely produced in Mexico and other South American countries.
Heroin Use in the United Kingdom
Drug misuse costs the UK a massive £500 million a year, with a significant percentage of this figure being apportioned to heroin addiction. It’s thought that a large amount of the heroin which makes its way into the United Kingdom originates from Afghanistan, a market which has increased its production of heroin by 44 percent since 2015.
Heroin is the opiate most frequently mentioned on UK death certificates where the cause of death is a drug overdose, and heroin is responsible for around 1,337 drug poisoning deaths every year.
Within the UK, there is a considerable amount of help available for those who find themselves in the grip of heroin addiction, including organisations such as the NHS, Mind, and a number of private clinics.
Heroin Use in Africa
Heroin is a widespread problem in Africa, particularly within South Africa where it is the most commonly injected drug. The use of heroin in Africa has been rising steeply, and it’s estimated that the number of drug users will increase by a staggering 150 percent by 2050.
In South Africa alone, an estimated 82,500 people inject drugs and the common drug of choice is heroin.
Around 1,632 overdose deaths per year are reported in Africa, however, it’s thought that many more deaths are simply not recorded in any official capacity. Like the UK, much of Africa’s heroin makes its way to the continent from Afghanistan and then is rapidly distributed.
The rapid acceleration of the opioid epidemic in Africa is fuelled by poverty and a lack of education. Adding to the problem is the lack of healthcare and support services, particularly for young people. Often children are drawn into the world of heroin at a young age and will then be recruited into criminal activities such as distribution and becoming drug mules.
The Comparison Between Heroin Use in UK and Africa
While the figures that we have shown here don’t show a huge disparity between the heroin situation in the UK and that of the situation in Africa, these figures are by no means the whole story. A lack of proper reporting means that it can be difficult to gauge the full scale of the opioid problem in each country - particularly within more remote regions. We can, however, confirm that the situation in Africa is escalating much more rapidly than in the UK, due to the lack of resources such as medical care and rehabilitation.
In terms of crime, heroin-based criminal gangs operate within the United Kingdom - particularly in the Midlands and the Northeast of England. While this situation is serious, the UK has a number of policing initiatives, including specialist departments, which are dedicated to stamping out these crimes. In Africa, very few such initiatives exist, which often means that criminals have free reign to continue their unlawful behaviour - and to recruit others into their criminal rings.
What’s the Picture for Drug Use in Africa?
Heroin abuse remains a massive problem across the globe, particularly in third world countries. African people will often find themselves trapped in a spiral of addiction with no hope of gaining professional help.
In the UK, on the other hand, the easy access to financial and medical help means that the chances of overcoming addiction and rejoining society are considerably higher. For Africa, the first piece of light appeared in 2018 when a government funded opioid substitute program was launched to help heroin users in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, and the hope is that this will inspire similar programs to be rolled out across the continent to stop this epidemic’s forecasted trajectory, and save countless lives.
For those concerned in the supply of drugs sentencing guidelines, it’s felt that immediate help is needed from governments to help them to achieve their goals before it’s too late.