Thirty thousand of all outpatient cases reported at the three psychiatric hospitals each year in the country are cannabis related.
More than 10 per cent of all inpatient cases in the three psychiatric hospitals — Ankaful, Pantang and Accra — are due to the abuse of cannabis.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority of Ghana, Dr Akwasi Osei, gave the staggering statistics when he made a case against any attempt at legalising cannabis at the 59th Annual General Meeting of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) in Kumasi on Friday.
Delivering his speech as the main speaker at the three-day programme which is on the theme: “Mental Health in Ghana,” Dr Osei, who has over the years advocated greater attention to mental health care in the country, said the three main mental hospitals received more than 100,000 patients in a year and that with 30,000 patients suffering from cannabis induced cases, cannabis must not be legalised.
“This is unnecessary mental illness because it could have been avoided,” he said and explained that the figures were an evidence that cannabis was not good and that 2,000 of all admission cases at the three hospitals were cannabis related.
“Ghana be warned, do not legalise cannabis,” he cautioned.
Dr Osei said it was not only psychiatric problems that cannabis usage caused but people who resorted to the use of the drug could suffer from what he termed “a-motivated syndrome” which killed the urge of the users to improve themselves.
He said the syndrome could also culminate in people, especially students cutting short their studies while other individuals who were very hard working would also metamorphose into lazy workers resulting in their expulsion.
Dr Osei added that cannabis was also a “gate-way drug,” meaning its usage usually led to the users, 70 per cent of them, becoming addicted to heroin and cocaine and cautioned that it would be disastrous for the country to attempt to legalise cannabis usage.
He urged Ghanaians to be reminded of the challenges psychiatric health faced in the country and stated that allowing the drug to be used on a large scale would result in serious mental health consequences that could not be contained.
He reminded the gathering that Ghana used to be a transit point for cocaine and heroin about 15 years ago when cocaine and heroin usage was not known in the country but with time “we have become a user country.”
Dr Osei gave the transit analogy to indicate that if Ghana resorted to the use of only export of the cannabis, with time its usage would be difficult to control.
Dr Osei surprised the gathering of the crème de la crème of medical practitioners in the country at the plush Golden Tulip Hotel when he disclosed that the Narcotics Law of the country had room for those who wished to use cannabis for health-related reasons or for export.
He explained that such persons could write to the Minister of Health and if they were able to convince him, they would be granted the permission to go ahead to use the drug.
That, he explained, was different from the recent call by some Ghanaians who sought to argue for the “liberalised usage of cannabis.”
Dr Osei said processed cannabis had medicinal values that could be used to treat glaucoma and boost the appetite of terminal cancer patients.
He announced that all doctors in the country would soon be trained to handle mental health issues as a way of curbing the increasing number of cases and also bringing mental health care close to the people.
Touching on the issue of mental health earlier, the President of the Ghana Medical Association, DCOP Dr Ebenezer Emmim, expressed worry that issues of mental health had been relegated to the background in the country.
He explained that once there was enough indication that at least one out of every four Ghanaians could have a mental problem, required that the issue of mental health delivery be given serious attention and urged people to also seek medical attention.
He said the ailment was as old as the time of Jesus Christ and quoted Matthew 5:1-5 of the Holy Bible to support his claim, explaining that some of the patients, when not given early attention, could become violent.
Dr Emmim raised concern over the recent phenomenon where a lot of health facilities in the country lacked medical doctors yet a lot of medical doctors who had completed their courses were wasting away in their various homes.
He said the excuse that the Ministry of Health was waiting for financial clearance was unacceptable and urged the government to expedite action on such matters so that the people of Ghana could have quality health care from trained professionals.