University students top Butabika Mental Cases

DAILYNEWS UG- Majority of patients admitted to Butabika National Referral Mental Hospital are university and high school students suffering from alcohol and drug addiction or abuse.
The stunning revelation was made by Dr David Basangwa, the hospital executive director, during the Health ministry monthly media breakfast in Kampala yesterday.

He said the hospital has experienced an upsurge in daily admissions of patients with mental disorder.
“At any one time when you walk into Butabika you find a total population of 850 patients compared to 750 last year,” Dr Basangwa said.

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He said the hospital receives 20 new mental patients daily compared to between 10 and 15 previously. An average of 20 new mental patients every day translates into 7,300 cases annually.

Dr Bisangwa attributed the increase in the number of mental patients to diverse factors but particularly cited alcohol and drug/substance abuse as the major drivers.

Besides alcohol packed in sachets and tobacco, Dr Basangwa, said there are clinical drugs that are abused by most of the patients, a majority being high school and university students.

He cited Pethidine, a synthetic opioid pain medication usually given to expectant mothers during childbirth. “The drug makes the addicts feel as if they are in heaven after taking an injection,” Dr Basangwa said.

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Other drugs commonly abused by patients admitted to Butabika include Tramadol, a painkiller frequently prescribed to manage moderate to severe pain such as that experienced after surgery or in chronic conditions such as arthritis; valium, a medicine of the benzodiazepine family that typically produces a calming effect, and Phenobarb, also known as phenobarbitone, a medication recommended by WHO for treatment of certain types of epilepsy in developing countries.

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Dr Hafsa Lukwata, a senior medical officer in the Health ministry mental health division, said mental disorders in Uganda are also triggered by situations such as the prevailing insecurity characterised by kidnaps and murders.

She also cited other triggers of mental illness such as poverty, jiggers, nodding syndrome and disease outbreaks, trauma and natural disasters.
However, Dr Lukwata said the Ministry of Health had integrated mental health services into general health care to counter the rising number of mental patients.
“We are also enforcing the Tobacco Control Act to stop smoking in public. People should know smoking in public is illegal,” she said, adding the ministry is about to destroy a container shisha pots.
At the event, the Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwine, attributed the high incidence of mental illness to alcohol abuse particularly alcohol packaged in sachets and commonly sold in local bars.
“We want Ministry of Trade to ban alcohol sachets. They are behind the increasing number of traffic accidents and other bad behaviour,” Dr Atwine said.

She said more than 90 per cent of people admitted to Butabika hospital’s alcohol and drug unit are mainly youth of university going age.

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