At 26, Hamza became addicted to pufa, a synthetic drug made from cocaine or crystal methamphetamine waste. He stole money from his family and became homeless, spending his days living for the next dose. In October 2023, a 25-year-old man died from an overdose at a pufa party in Rabat.
Pufa is cheap, easy to obtain, and highly addictive, leading to heavy dependence and devastating effects on users’ psychological and physical health. It can cause aggression, violence, schizophrenia, paranoia, depression, skin infections, ulcers, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary distress, kidney problems, fever, severe headaches, insomnia, and convulsions.
Homemade crystal meth first appeared in the United States in the 1980s and spread to Europe in the 1990s. It became popular in Greece during the economic crisis in the 2000s. In Morocco, pufa arrived in Tangier in the mid-2010s under the name Lbasé, or by drug dealers in disadvantaged areas who mixed leftover cocaine or crystal meth with other chemicals to bulk up their stocks.
The economic crisis of the 2000s and COVID-19 coincided with the rise of pufa, a form of cocaine that was less widely available and consumed by those financially disadvantaged. During the COVID-19 pandemic, dealers in Morocco began mixing cocaine waste with other products, making it more accessible to a wider population. Since then, many have been admitted to drug rehabilitation centers, with over 3,000 addicts registered in northern Morocco. Pufa, a local drug, is manufactured and is easily obtained due to its low price of just US$0.50 per gram. Security operations at educational institutions led to the investigation of 3,870 cases and the arrest of 4,286 suspects for dealing in pufa.
A growing number of young girls are becoming involved in the sex trade to pay for their daily intake, with some users selling their cars to fund their habit. Between August and September last year, 112 pufa drug traffickers were arrested and nearly 1,413 kg of the drug was seized in a coordinated operation across various Moroccan cities. In October, Moroccan security forces intercepted 1,371 kg of cocaine being trafficked into the country from Spain, highlighting Morocco’s growing role as a regional cocaine hub.
Despite these seizures and the number of cases processed, authorities still have a long way to go to eradicate the problem. Without rapid and efficient measures, Morocco could soon face a health crisis and an increase in violent and criminal incidents associated with the pufa drug.
Currently, traffickers in Morocco can face sentences of six months to a year, while major traffickers can face up to 30 years. Pufa traffickers face harsher penalties, often sentenced to 10 years, and strengthening legal and institutional frameworks is needed to combat their activities.
Health-related prevention, awareness, and support systems for drug-dependent people are also crucial. Policies allowing the use of naloxone and methadone are essential for preventing and responding to drug overdoses and treating drug use disorders. Morocco could also train communities to build trusting relationships with drug users.