The prescription painkiller Tramadol has ranked first among illicit drugs abused in Egypt, taken by 40.7 percent of drug abusers, Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Wali said, quoting information obtained by the Anti-Addiction Fund's hotline.
Tramadol is a powerful opiate pain reliever, often prescribed for patients experiencing severe pain.
Last year, after a surge in abuse among Egyptians, possessing the drug without a prescription was made a felony, carrying with it a possible sentence of several years in prison.
The drug's initial affordability contributed to its widespread use, with black market prices reaching a low of LE1 ($0.14) per 225mg pill. However, a recent spike in prices raised the cost to LE15 ($2.14) per pill.
The Anti-Addiction Fund’s 16023 hotline was launched in early 2015 to offer free of charge and confidential treatment to patients. According to the hotline's report, 96.3 percent of callers suffering from addiction were male, while 3.7 percent were female.
According to the hotline’s results, drug abusers start at a relatively early age, with 6 percent of callers saying they started at the age of 15, and 24.9 percent starting from 15 to 20 in 2014, compared to 2015’s 22.9 percent.
Minister Wali said that the number of rehabilitation centres increased from 13 to 16 centres in 2015.
Cairo governorate ranked first in the number of callers to the hotline at 37.8 percent, an increase from 2014 attributed to the increase in population and the proximity to treatment centres. Giza governorate was second at 17.7 percent, while Alexandria was third at 9.5 percent.
Wali said that the hotline is available 24/7, and that it directs patients to partner hospitals where they can receive treatment.