Several deaths have been recorded in Ghana the past two years over a concoction of Tramadol and a local drink, Rush Energy.
Christened ‘street drug’, Tramadol is taken with fanfare in major cities in Ghana, including Accra, Kumasi and Tamale. Reports by some experts revealed the mixture is popular with market women, commercial drivers, unemployed youth and students.
The drug is hawked by some unlicensed shops in dosages of 120milligrams (mg) and 225mg, far above the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA)’s 50mg and 100mg threshold.
These users dissolve the drug in the drink expressly to enhance sexual performance, reduce pain during sex and for a peaceful nap, some youth I interacted with averred.
“I can stay on for eight hours non-stop,” Kwame, a user at a popular town, Lapaz in Accra said. “Sometimes my girlfriend will be begging me to have mercy on her,” he continued.
Ghana is gradually losing its population to the drug, with some local media estimating there are at least 3,000 people who are currently hooked on Tramadol.
The Tramadol craze in the West African country is blamed on a cartel said to be taking advantage of the lax border control to smuggle the drug inland.
These criminals reportedly sell the drugs at a cheaper price on the black market, which are then populated in the unlicensed shops and sold at ¢10 to ¢20 depending on the gram.
A psychiatrist, Dr Yao Mfodwo has explained the cartel needs the drug to be in circulation in order to fatten the account of its members.
“This is a narcotic, stop the following cannabis, stop wasting your time…this is the real deal…please NACOB, wake-up,” he appealed to the Narcotic Control Board (NACOB).
The Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana has also urged a “coordinated efforts by all stakeholders to rid our markets of this unregistered and unapproved product which has the tendency to threaten the gains made in the provision of healthcare in the country.”
At least 20 people reportedly died over a large intake of the mixture in 2017 and more than 10 deaths have been recorded from January to March this year.
The public outcry that greeted the deaths has propelled the government, security agencies and drug-related organisations into action.
Days after sections of Ghanaians mounted pressure on the government to act, scores of people were arrested at Lapaz, Fadama and Mallam Junction, all in Accra and Kumasi, for possessing the drug.
The FDA has started a campaign to educate the public about the dangers of taking Tramadol without the advice of a specialist.