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‘Drug abuse – path to mental illness’

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Drug abuse is seriously hampering the efficacy of mental health treatment in this country.

This is the view of Dr Amrie Morris, Senior Registrar at the Mental Health Centre, and she has made a call for the establishment of a substance abuse centre here.{{more}}

Dr Morris spoke to SEARCHLIGHT during mental health week, which was observed last week, and voiced her concern for the welfare of mental health patients.

She expressed great concern about the prevalence of drug use among patients, especially men under the age of 25.

“Many of them were smoking marijuana since they were in high school,” Dr Morris said.

She was, however, quick to note that the jury is still out about whether marijuana use causes mental illness. What is clear, she said, is that marijuana and other drug use makes recovery difficult.

“The use of drugs, including marijuana, is a risk factor and contributes to a problematic recovery for persons who are dealing with psychosis,” she said.

She said that it is very important that dually-diagnosed patients (mental health and substance abuse) be treated on both fronts, so as not to compromise their psychosis treatment by a return to drug use.

Dr Morris said that she is very concerned about young men who drop out of school and spend all day on the “block” smoking, because she believes they are an “at risk group” for the development of mental illness.

She called for a more aggressive technical vocational system to instill more purposefulness in the lives of these young people.

Treatment for children is another area that Dr Morris believes needs to be addressed.

She told SEARCHLIGHT that in order for children to be properly treated, they need more than the care given in the general psychiatric service.

“We can’t provide what they will really need,” she said.

She said that there is a need for a child psychologist, who can provide the specialist clinical care that children need. (KJ)