Welcome to this week’s “Mental Health Chat Room”, this is a chat room where we discuss the basics of our mental health in order to understand and have a full grasp of the rudiments of mental health and mental well-being. This is an essential component of our mental health advocacy activities aimed at promoting our wholesome wellness, prevent mental illness, improve our awareness of mental illness, understand that effective, qualitative and modern (technology based) mental health care services are available in Nigeria and globally to enhance quality living, harmonious interpersonal relationships and peaceful coexistence within our communities.

A recap of our last conversation where we discussed the urgent need to decriminalize attempted suicide and “tame suicide tragedy” as a continuation of our chat on attempted suicide and suicide.

Read Also: ‘Everything is going to be all right’ Ada Ameh speaks on her mental health issues  

We stated that it is quite obvious that suicide has become more prevalent in recent years, and is now reported regularly in the news. We noted that there is increasing awareness of the challenge of suicide and attempted suicide; partly as a result of increase in social media use, suicidal behavior has become public health issue in Nigeria and the rest of the world.

The provisions criminalizing attempted suicide in Nigeria should, as a matter of urgency be repealed, this move might go a long way in reducing the stigma attached with suicides. People will not any longer feel the need to hide their suicidal thoughts and would be encouraged to talk about it with others and subsequently to seek professional help. Cultural and religious factors preventing people from reporting and stigmatizing suicide should also be addressed through public enlightenment campaigns.

The time is ripe for Nigeria to repeal the obnoxious, archaic and inhuman 1916 “lunacy act” which does not speak nor understand modern mental health language, it places emphasis on only custodial care and does not have mental health promotion, mental illness prevention, treatment and rehabilitation in its entire content.

Today, our topic for discussion is “Drug Addiction: A Treatable Mental Disorder”. Sunday 26th June 2022 was a day set aside as the international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking otherwise referred to as “World Drug Day”! The day, celebrated every year on 26th of June was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1987.

It serves as a reminder of the goals agreed to by Member States of creating an international society free of drug abuse; we are therefore contributing to this reminder with this publication. I will be taking you through the journey to the destination called “addiction”! In doing so, I will use the story of Mr. Femi to illustrate drug addiction as a slippery journey to hell on earth.

Please, read on:

Femi is a 40 years old man, he is presently divorced after two failed marriages; he is unemployed (he lost his job in the bank five years ago due constant absenteeism and involvement in fraud, twice his father bailed him out but finally he was dismissed).

He has two children from his first marriage. He got married to his first wife who is a daughter of a politician (his father’s friend), she was his girlfriend, they smoked, used alcohol and attended parties together. Their marriage lasted six years. His second marriage lasted for 14 months!

Femi’s father is a Politician/retired Banker, a socialite who smokes cigarette, drinks alcohol and attends parties with his wife (Femi’s mother). Femi’s mother is a university Teacher who has been treated for depression at a private mental health facility and she recovered completely.

Femi is the first among three children of his parents. His maternal uncle also had drug problem and was at one time diagnosed bipolar affective disorder. He received treatments at spiritual homes and herbalists home and finally at the psychiatric hospital.

Femi left primary school from class 5 at nine years old, he was enrolled into a private high brow secondary school but was expelled in SS1 because of the use of drugs. He moved to another secondary school where he spent only two years before gaining admission into the university to read Business Administration.

At the university, he maintained his drug behavior, met new friends through partying and escalated his drug use both in “hierarchy” of drugs and quantity. He graduated with a third class degree after spending six years for a four-year degree program. He was able to graduate, principally due to his father’s influence than his hard work! He was able to perform the mandatory one National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in the bank and he secured employment within the same bank. However, the use of psychoactive substances took its toll on him, he couldn’t cope with the demands of the work, he frequently got involved in fraudulent activities (shortfalls in cash/advance fee activities) which earned him queries, warnings and finally dismissal!

Femi sold his mother’s jewelries and one of her cars, and sold his father’s landed properties to finance his drug use. He also easily disposed his personal possessions whenever he was short of cash and the need for drug arises. He has encountered several legal issues, some were financial problems with bank customers of which his father always rescue him from serving prison term, he also had encounter with the law for being caught with illicit drugs.

Femi spent a total of 12 months in spiritual healing home at different times and another 14 months shackled in the herbalist treatment center! He recently attempted to commit suicide while under the influence of drugs for which he was hospitalized at a psychiatric hospital where he had detoxification, received treatment of comorbid depression and drug rehabilitation. He has been free of drugs and is mentally stable since discharged from the psychiatric hospital 2 years ago! He is presently working as a marketing manager in an insurance company.

Drug addiction (dependence) is a mental health disorder that is classified under mental and behavioral disorders due to psychoactive substance use in section F10-F19 of the international classification of diseases 10th edition (ICD 10), a publication of the World Health Organization (1992) and in the section on “substance related and addictive disorders” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM V, 2013), a publication of American Psychiatric Association.

Addiction is a treatable clinical condition that is characterized by inability to function normally in the absence of psychoactive substance (drug); this usually results from excessive or prolonged (or both) use of the psychoactive substance (drug). It is a chronic (long standing), relapsing disease of the brain that is involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. A central descriptive characteristic of drug addiction is the desire to use the drug that is quite strong and most times over powering (compulsive urge). To be continued

Note: If you have comments, questions and contributions, please reach out to us on: +2348037004611 or email us at latshe1@gmail.com.

READERS’ COMMENT

Feeling low, should I see a therapist?
Dear Prof,
I feel quite low sometimes, even when I am in the midst of friends and loved ones. Should I see a therapist?
Seun, Ibadan

Prof says,
One of the most important things to do if you’re feeling down is to open up.

Most people feel more comfortable confiding in a close friend or family member in the first instance. Often simply talking about it helps.

If the problem continues and begins to interfere with everyday life, you can speak to your doctor, who can talk you through the support that’s available.

A low mood often gets better on its own after a few days or weeks and you can improve a low mood by making small changes in your life. Resolve anything that’s bothering you or getting more sleep.

Seeing things, hearing sounds that don’t exist
Dear Prof,
My husband has an odd habit of seeing things and hearing sounds that are non-existent. What can be the cause of this hallucination?
Kunle, Lagos

Prof says,

Hallucinations are where you hear, see, smell, taste or feel things that appear to be real but only exist in your mind.

You may have hallucinations if you hear sounds or voices that nobody else hears or see things that are not there like objects, shapes, people or lights or even feel touch or movement in your body that is not real.

Sometimes hallucinations can be temporary. They can happen if you have migraines, a high temperature or just as you wake up or fall asleep. Best to consult a qualified therapist.

I cannot express myself coherently in public
Dear Prof,
Anytime am trying to express myself, particularly in public. I notice incoherent in articulating my thought?

Diane, Awka

Prof says.

Thought disorder may be a symptom of a mental disorder. Many mental disorders such as schizophrenia are progressive and don’t improve without treatment.

However, people with mental disorders are often unaware of their symptoms and need help from a family member or friend.

If you notice any other symptoms of schizophrenia in somebody you know, you may want to encourage them to see a doctor:

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