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 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 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 and tramadol alone was not enough to get them high.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic at the opening of a 10-day training programme organised by the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) in Kumasi Monday, the psychiatrist said the alarming rate at which cases connected to tge 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 cases in Kumasi, interaction with the patients and their personal confessions lent credence to the enormity of the problem.
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 Vandem-Bosche, said the level of substance abuse, especially among the youth, including young girls, was alarming and there was 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 the 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 the best practices in the 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.
It is the first time the training is being organised Accra.