BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
The government is now sending people suffering from drug induced mental illnesses to Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison to “detoxify” as public hospitals are being overwhelmed by the number of patients seeking treatment, it has emerged.
Zimbabwe is battling rampant drug abuse induced mental illness challenges, with the number of patients reportedly spiralling out of control.
Two psychiatric units at Sally Mugabe and Parirenyatwa hospitals in Harare have been handling an alarming number of patients with mental illnesses and the bulk of them are drug addicts.
An official at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital said patients that were considered to be too violent were being sent to Chikurubi.
“They undergo a detoxification process for at least three months,” the official, who is not authorised to speak to the media, said.
“The psychatric units are handling many cases and in some cases mental patients cannot be admitted because the wards are full.
“Violent mental patients at times are sent to Chikurubi for a while. It would have been established that they are a danger to themselves as well as others.”
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Sally Mugabe Central Hospital psychiatric unit clinical director Hopewell Mungani confirmed that violent patients were being sent to Chikurubi.
“The drug abuse problem has and is growing greatly,” Mungani said.
“We admit patients who are in crisis for example psychotic, suicidal or homocidal due to drug abuse.
“We do not have capacity to admit for a long term rehabilitation.
“Ideally substance use patients need a dedicated robust community treatment follow-up before and after we discharge them.
“We only send dangerous patients to Chikurubi, for example, those that are repeatedly violent and or those who are committing crimes to fund the drugs or because they are intoxicated.”
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said youths were taking drugs to escape the harsh realities of the country’s deep socio-economic crisis.
“We are in trouble as a country,” Marisa said.
“Almost 40% of youths are resorting to drug and substance abuse.
“This is largely due to high levels of unemployment.
“It is a pity that lives are lost daily, injuries occurring daily while cognitive function is gradually depleted.
“It has become fashionable in some locations to use drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, musombo, twumbwa, sodium polyacylate (from diapers) and alcohol.”
Approximately one in every four Zimbabweans suffers from a mental health disorder of some form and suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 28.
The country has only nine institutions that offer mental health services and only two of these facilities have psychiatrists.