Mental disorders: A neglected challenge
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a dRUg addict introducing cocaine into his blood system.

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AT Independence, in 1961, Tanzania did not have a single mental case associated with narcotic drug abuse. The drugs problem cropped up around 1970 when the Police Department registered a sharp increase in petty offences.

Schools detected an increase in truancy and dropout cases. In 2010/11 Mirembe hospital handled 360 patients with mental disorders whose illness was attributed to narcotic drug abuse.

A further 165 mentally deranged patients had disorders stemming from natural causes. A further 1,407 patients were taken in at Mirembe after committing vicious criminal offences emanating from mental disorder.

Today, Dodoma Regional hospital receives an average ranging between 15 to 20 patients a week suffering from mental breakdown. These figures translate into a shocking total of two to three madmen or women a day.

So, the hospital receives an average of between 60 and 80 lunatics a month or between 230 and 280 such patients a year. Dodoma region has between 7,000 and 8,000 madmen and women.

Medical practitioners believe that all narcotic drugs, including bhang are dangerous. A psychiatrist at the hospital points an accusing finger at alcohol, bhang, cocaine, heroin and other hard intoxicants such as Valium and cannabis sativa, as the main causes of lunacy.

In fact, she says, most narcotic drugs have very serious physical and psychological consequences. An overdose or even symptoms can lead to an early grave. Many youths learn the ropes by smoking cigarettes.

They may also drink hard liquors or illegal brews such as gongo. But as time rolls on they graduate to such hard substances as bhang, heroin, Valium, cocaine, cannabis and addictive pharmaceutical tablets that are legally sold over the counter, especially in Dar es Salaam.

Medical workers attribute some of the causes of lunacy to unfortunate mental disorders. In the parlance of the medical world these maladies are referred to as physical illnesses.

However, as mentioned before, some of the problems emanate from abuse of narcotic drugs and alcohol. Psychiatrists say the world of narcotic drugs is a completely rabid world.

It is a world known only to madmen and women. The narco world is a world of hallucination, loss of memory and violence, a psychiatrist who preferred anonymity says.

It is a world of lunatics, violent gangsters, scarlet prostitutes and devil-may-care outlaws, he says. Abuse of narcotic drugs is a worldwide problem. In Tanzania it a problem that is already posing a stiff challenge for law enforcers and the society generally.

It was reported in the press early this year that Bugando hospital in Mwanza Region faces the challenge of taking care of mental patients abandoned by relatives. here, some mental patients who are now fit to reunite with their families cannot be released. These patients, the hospital says, have become an undesirable burden.

Indeed, this is a common societal phenomenon that borders on stigma. Mental patients, especially those who get violent when their illness peaks are normally feared even by family members.

Bugando is not alone in this predicament. Mirembe hospital in Dodoma often faces a similar problem. A few years ago, a mental patient who had recovered almost fully asked for release from Mirembe hospital.

But it took time before a relative collected him. The patient, Mr Mahuta Kimba (not his real name), said that his illness had stemmed from the narcotic drugs he had been consuming before he arrived at Mirembe.

He had an intriguing story to tell. he said he got hooked to narcotic drugs when he was a student in Dar es Salaam. he recounted that there was ruthless caning at the school.

So, schoolmates advised him to stone on drugs to deaden the pain from the strokes. The trick worked, so he abused narcotic drugs each time he offended his teachers and whenever caning was imminent.

He said that despite his diabolical habit he was an intelligent student. he later studied at the Institute of Finance Management (IFM) and moved on to the UK where he got a masters degree in computer programming.

He landed a job with the Bank of Tanzania when he returned to Tanzania. But he could not conceal his drug addiction problem from his employers. he was soon kicked out of his job because he often sneaked out of his office and vanished into the dank alleys where he abused drugs.

When he finally returned into his office he looked and behaved like a lunatic. he secured a new job with TASAF but his new employers discovered that he was a drug addict who got hostile to fellow employees after stoning.

He was expelled. He moved to Tunduma where he got a job with a Customs Clearing and Forwading firm. he lost this job too. Tanroads were his last employers. They engaged him and assigned him duties at a weighbridge at Mikese near Kibaha town.

But it was soon discovered that Mr Kimba became a dangerous character after abusing narcotic drugs. They turned him away. he never got another job. Mr Kimba said he committed a lot of mayhem in the streets of Dar es Salaam after losing his job with Tanroads.

He even pedaled narcotic drugs until, one day, police officers apprehended him. An elder brother of his offered a bribe to the police officer and secured his release. however, the policeman walked away with his bag of narcos worth a million shillings and some cash. 

He rejoined the family and became a nagging menace. he stole his father’s vehicle tyres, headlamps and other parts and sold them in the criminal underworld in order to quench his thirst for narcotic drugs.

He often quarreled with his mother. On one occasion he hit his mother with water glasses and bottles. This was the final straw. his father, took him to Mirembe hospital for medical treatment and rehabilitation.

Mr Limbe Mwasha (not his real name), a less educated drug addict who was yet to reform fully, said that he sneaked into the cockpit of a parked Malawian aircraft in Dar es Salaam and fidgeted with the controls in the warped belief that he could fly it.

He had stoned hard on narcos. he was arrested and taken to Mirembe. Kimba and Mwa sha were not the only mental disorder patients at Mirembe. In fact, narcotic drug abusers had congested the hospital wards, which had room for only 259 patients, but housed 350 at that particular time.

Most of the addicts hailed from affluent families in Dodoma, Dar es Salaam, Singida and Morogoro. The narcotic drug problem, which affects young people in the 15 to 40age bracket, is growing rapidly and could reach a disastrous proportion in a few years to come.

Some youths begin taking drugs at an early age as adolescents or even younger. There are hundreds of addictive drugs known to the underworld and have various names that are known only to the initiated.

Cannabis packs a very powerful punch and has a range of ugly symptoms. Psychiatrists say effects of low to moderate doses can include: hilarity; changes in perception of time and space; loquacious euphoria; impaired coordination; misguided judgment; loss of memory; increased visual and auditory sensitivity, just to mention a few.

This is a frightening combination. higher doses can lead to illusions, delusions, depression, confusion, alienation and hallucinations. Sometimes these symptoms may resemble psychotic episodes marked by fear and aggression.

Regular and prolonged use of cannabis may also reduce immunity and resistance to infection. And, mark you, an overdose can lead to death. Cocaine, a stimulant, also packs a killer punch but has a slightly different set of symptoms.

It can induce euphoric excitement and hallucinatory experience. It creates a feeling of great muscular strength and mental clarity. So, the user tends to overestimate his capabilities.

This wrong sense of being “super powerful,” combined with the paranoid delusions and auditory, visual and tactile hallucinations that may be induced, can make the abuser capable of committing heinous crimes. heavy use of cocaine often leads to paranoia, psychosis and violence. Generally, the use of illegal drugs and crime go hand in hand.

In far too many cases drug abusers will literally do anything to obtain enough drugs to satisfy a habit, no wonder most bandits stone on drugs.

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