(Photo: AP)

Egypt’s future is being put at risk because such a large proportion of the population is doing drugs. 

Egypt’s Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali said early this year that the rate of drug taking in Egypt has reached 10 percent (9.6 million people), a number which has been increasing since the last 1980’s and increased dramatically after the uprising of 2011 which weakened state control.

Drug addiction is particularly high among the population aged under 35, and a report last year found nearly 8 percent of Egyptian high school students abused drugs.

Amr Othman, head of the Egyptian Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Addiction, told Arab News:

“The percentage of people in Egypt that are under 35 make up around 40 percent of the population. If such a huge number of them are addicted, this means the future of Egypt is in danger,”  

Egypt’s population includes approximately 34 million people aged between ten and thirty, creating a big market for drugs and attracting the interest of cartels.

According to Arab News, many university students have a casual attitude towards their drug use, with cocaine and MDMA (a psychoactive drug) popular choices to stave off boredom on the weekend.  However, the most commonly abused drug is the prescription-only painkiller tramadol, followed by cannabis and heroin.  Apparently many bus and taxi drivers depend on tramadol to stay awake on the road.

The country is currently attempting to stem the tide of drug use with various media, school and university campaigns.  It is also attempting to cut off supply, though this is difficult because the country has multiple international entry points and is in the middle of the some of the main global trafficking routes.  

The government is also making an effort to provide rehabilitation services to addicts, such as the Center for the Treatment of Addiction. Its vision is to have an addiction treatment center in each governorate, and free treatment for patients to help them recover.  More people are seeking help from such centers due to the rising cost of the commonly used tramadol.  However, some fair worse is yet to come if such users switch to stronger drugs such as heroin instead.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...