Contribution of Illicit Drug Use to Pharmaceutical Load in the Environment: A Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa
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Illicit drug abuse and addiction are universal issues requiring international cooperation and interdisciplinary and multisectoral solutions. ese addictive substances are utilized for recreational purposes worldwide, including in sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, conventional wastewater treatment facilities such as waste stabilization ponds lack the design to remove the most recent classes of pollutants such as illicit drug abuse. As a result, e uents from these treatment schemes contaminate the entire ecosystem. Public health o cials are concerned about detecting these pollutants at alarming levels in some countries, with potential undesirable e ects on aquatic species and increased health hazards through exposure to contaminated waters or recycling treated or untreated e uents in agriculture. Contaminants including illicit substances enter the environment by human excreta following illegal intake, spills, or through direct dumping, such as from clandestine laboratories, when their manufacturer does not follow accepted production processes. ese substances, like other pharmaceuticals, have biological activity and range from pseudopersistent to highly persistent compounds; hence, they persist in the environment while causing harm to the ecosystem. e presence of powerful pharmacological agents such as cocaine, morphine, and amphetamine in water as complex combinations can impair aquatic organisms and human health. ese compounds can harm human beings and ecosystem health apart from their low environmental levels. erefore, this article examines the presence and levels of illicit substances in ecological compartments such as wastewater, surface and ground waters in sub-Saharan Africa, and their latent impact on the ecosystem. e information on the occurrences of illicit drugs and their metabolic products in the sub-Saharan Africa environment and their contribution to pharmaceutical load is missing. In this case, it is important to research further the presence, levels, distribution, and environmental risks of exposure to human beings and the entire ecosystem.