A psychiatrist at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Dr John-Paul Omuojine, has raised alarm about an emerging trend in drug abuse whereby the youth lace marijuana with opium, known locally as ‘tie’, for use.
Opium is a reddish-brown, heavily scented addictive drug prepared from the juice of the opium poppy plant and used illicitly as a narcotic.
According to Dr Omuojine, the substance, which the youth consume to make them ‘high’, was more dangerous than tramadol, as it could easily cause mental illness.
He disclosed that the Psychiatric Unit at KATH had been flooded lately with such patients who confessed to taking ‘tie’ because the intake of marijuana or tramadol alone was not enough to get them ‘high’.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic during the opening of a 10-day training programme organised by the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) in Kumasi yesterday, the psychiatrist said the alarming rate at which cases connected to the consumption of ‘tie’ were being reported called for a swift national policy to deal with it.
Dr Omuojine said although there were no statistics available to show that the combination of marijuana and ‘tie’ was the cause of the high number of reported mental illnesses in Kumasi, interaction with the patients and their personal confessions lent credence to the enormity of the problem.
Dr John-Paul Omuojine (5th right) and Mr Godlove Vanden-Bossche (5th left) with the participants
Twenty-four health professionals at different levels are brainstorming and receiving training on how to deal with the treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons with substance abuse disorders at the NACOB event.
Chief among the issues being discussed at the training programme are how to tackle and deal with stigmatisation, the nature of addiction and evidence-based practice.
Dr Omuojine, in a speech during the opening ceremony, said the increase in reported mental health illnesses was encouraging, and attributed the development to awareness and a decrease in the level of stigmatisation.
He urged parents to be watchful of their children the moment they started taking alcohol because it was the beginning of drug abuse.
Abuse by youth
The National Coordinator/Trainer for NACOB, Mr Godlove Vanden-Bossche, said the level of substance abuse, especially among the youth, including young girls, was alarming and there was the need to stamp it out.
He noted that Ghanaian culture promoted the intake of alcohol because it was legal and used on almost all occasions, which gradually developed into abuse.
He called for an increase in knowledge on the effects of illicit drugs, especially alcohol, because the negative ramifications could be dire.
He also encouraged families to learn how to accommodate rehabilitated patients, so that they did not revert to such a habit.
Universal Treatment Curriculum
The Ashanti Regional Director of NACOB, Mr Francis Opoku Amoah, said the Universal Treatment Curriculum (name of the training programme) became necessary because it would help train substance use disorders professionals on best practices in treatment and management.
He said the capacity-building programme was in agreement with the Colombo Plan launched in 1951 as a cooperative venture for the economic and social advancement of the people of South East Asia which had now been extended to Africa.