Reading of the problems of prescription pain killers being used as energy boosters in Egypt I believe there maybe a simpler problem at work, read the original here.
In 2001 when I visited Egypt I had the fortune of mingling with the people, unlike the US visitors who travelled in armoured convoys, us Brits just mingled in; even if in one bar we were accused of stealing the history by one chap and the bar man told him to "shut up, go read your history about the French".
Anyway, we met all sorts of people, backstreet hagglers, beggars, con-artists, sailors, tour guides, shop workers, children, the elderly... A good cross section.
But one chap I particularly remember was in a carpet shop, we didn't want a carpet, we didn't want to be in this shop, but we were bundled through this shop into a back room, literally the store room, and made to sit on a rug listening to a guy who had maybe four words in English, and we said "Thank you, but NO", several dozen times.
Anyway, this was our last day, kicked out of our hotel rooms, and in this hot room for so long I developed a headache. I casually excused myself and took a paracetamol.
This old guy, and he was old, 70+ immediately asked for one, he pointed at the pill in my hand stopping me taking it and pointed to his head and held out his hand.
He knew what it was, I believe now he perhaps thought it was tramadol, but it was just paracetamol. Anyway, he took his, I took mine and that was that, we'd been swapping tea in shops with people for the whole week.
It's only now I realise the cultural significance of this, how quickly wanting or taking a pill is, or anything it.. "You're smoking a dried weasel, gimme one of them too!"
It just seems to be part of the Egyptian attitude, now I've also been to Morocco, and whilst they share the same customs with sharing and offering tea they don't jump on wanting a pill off of you, they're in fact more weary if you ask "are you unwell? would you like an asprin?"... they really ask what it is, read the packet and check the bubble is intact, you know in case it has been tampered with.
I noticed this working with Moroccans for a couple of weeks, it was common for them to be the same, but weary, Egyptians however... "Chuck it down my neck, it's good for you".