Tramadol Abuse…the Next Epidemic?
The seemingly innocuous painkiller Tramadol is, according to a recent report from The Economist, the most popular recreational drug in Egypt. It’s used by hundreds of thousands of people and is bought and sold more frequently than marijuana, cocaine, or heroin.
There seem to be a few major reasons for this recent explosion of Tramadol abuse. First, it’s relatively inexpensive. On the streets of Egypt, and in corrupt pharmacies, pills can be bought for as little as fifteen cents.
Although prices have started to rise as a result of an increased demand, it’s rare for individuals to pay over $3 per pill. These prices are attractive for Egyptian citizens, thanks in part to the average household taking in less than $4,000 annually.
Another reason for the growth of Tramadol abuse is Egypt’s poor work and social structure. Since the fall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak, the region has been rife with instability. This is seen easiest in the economic sector. Having two, or even three, jobs isn’t uncommon. Times are tight and hardworking individuals are looking for a way to unwind.
Add into this equation the fact that everyone in Egypt seems to be taking the drug and, well, it isn’t hard to see why the drug’s so popular. According to The Economist,
“There is no social stigma attached to Tramadol,” says Hisham Mamdouh, who heads a Cairo rehabilitation centre [sic]. At least 40% of those attending his clinic are addicted to the pills.”
Egypt’s Tramadol problem isn’t a small time habit. It’s clear that something needs to be done and fast. What you may be wondering, though, is how a foreign drug problem impacts America? What does this explosion of Tramadol misuse mean for us fighting addiction across the ocean?
Why We Should Care about Egypt’s Drug Problem
If you’re anything like me, your first reaction to hearing about Egypt’s drug problem is momentary interest and…that’s it. Despite finding the above information troubling on an intellectual level, it took me awhile before I realized the real implication of what’s happened in Egypt.
It finally did hit me though. Egyptians abusing Tramadol is serious for two reasons. First, Egypt is one of the only stable countries in the Middle East. To see their society crumbling from the inside is troubling. Second, their problems with drug abuse mirror the United State’s problems.
This first point, the fact that Egypt has long been a friend of America and offered some stability in an otherwise tumultuous area, doesn’t directly touch on substance abuse. Still, if Egyptian citizens sink deeper into abusing opioids and, eventually, heroin, nothing good will come of it.
The majority of heroin imported into America comes from the Middle East. More instability in the region could easily lead to increased production of heroin. This, in turn, would lead to more heroin being brought into our country and more people using.
Following that logic, it’s not a stretch to say that what’s happening in Egypt can potentially impact levels of heroin abuse in the United States.
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Second, it was only a few years ago that our country was experiencing a prescription painkiller epidemic. Make no mistake, we still are but today we’re also experiencing a heroin epidemic. There’s no doubt in my mind that as Egyptian authorities crack down on Tramadol and other painkiller abuse, heroin use will rise.
The results of widespread heroin abuse have been devastating on America. Imagine what they’d be like in a country that isn’t as economically secure or well developed. It’s a scary prospect to think about.
We need to care about what’s going on in Egypt. Even if it doesn’t seem like their Tramadol problem impacts us, it does. It’s that simple.