The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has expressed concern about the increasing abuse of Tramadol among commercial drivers.
The Head of the Tobacco and Substance Abuse Department of the FDA, Ms Olivia Boateng, said evidence gathered among drivers involved in road accidents indicated that they had used the painkiller to prolong the number of hours they spent behind the wheel.
“Drivers admittedly told us they used it because they knew if they took the drug, they could drive longer.
The issue about Tramadol is that it has its idiosyncrasies — you may take it and feel sleepy and drowsy, while someone else takes it and stays awake.
For the drivers, they think it is allowing them to drive longer,” she explained to the Daily Graphic on the sidelines of a workshop in Accra.
For drivers, she said, the challenge was that it affected their cognitive judgement, caused loss of consciousness and loss of alertness.
She said the FDA had drawn the attention of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) and the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) to the need to add drug abuse to their educational campaigns.
Making a presentation at a training workshop on strategies to combat pharmaceutical crime, Ms Boateng said although people used Tramadol to enhance sexual performance, the drug could cause impotence, adding that mixing it with alcohol or energy drinks made it even deadlier, as the effect included brain and liver damage.
The workshop, organised by the FDA, with support from the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, was aimed at equipping participants with skills in modern trends in pharmaceutical crime, investigations, intelligence and also handling evidence.
Participants were from the media, the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the police, the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), prosecutors from the Attorney-General’s Department, the Judiciary, the Pharmacy Council and the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB).
Evils of fake drugs
The acting Chief Executive of the FDA, Mrs Delese A.A. Darko, observed that the evils of pharmaceutical crime had become a global phenomenon, posing a major threat to public health, security and the economies of countries.
She said the FDA, in the course of its market surveillance activities nationwide, had detected the distribution of falsified versions of antimalarials, antibiotics, analgesics, codeine-containing cough mixtures and controlled substances, including Tramadol and Diazepam.
Those products, she said, were mostly from the Far East, adding: “These market surveillance activities have resulted in the seizure of these products from the supply chain.”
To arrest the Tramadol menace, Mrs Darko said, the FDA had classified the drug as a controlled drug.
The FDA, she added, had also collaborated with the police and other law enforcement agencies to raid hot spots for fake drugs, as well as restrict the influx of and arrest peddlers of unregistered products.
She also stated that the authority intended to roll out a system that allowed consumers to check the originality of drugs they bought from anywhere around the country.