For every 10 cases of patients with mental disorders received in psychiatric facilities across the country, 3 are linked with the use of cannabis, also known as marijuana, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Authority, Dr Akwasi Osei has revealed.
Former United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Kofi Annan, recently ignited a debate in the country after suggesting cannabis and other hard drugs be legalised.
However, Dr Osei, in an interview with Class News indicated that the growing trend of the abuse of cannabis is a source of concern for the country.
He said cannabis; known as ‘wee’ in local parlance contains chemicals, which affect the function of the brains. According to him, the country spends huge sums of money for mental care and has, therefore, advocated preventive measures. He said people under the influence of cannabis have tendencies of violence, which could lead to crime.
“What is contained in cannabis is called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It has a mind altering effect, so it interferes with some activities of the brain and affects the functioning of the mind. It impairs your mind and makes you think you can do anything, so the violence associated with it is very important. Criminal activities are related to cannabis use,” he noted.
He further explained that smoking the substance can predispose an individual to cancer of the lungs just as smoking tobacco does.
Dr Osei, however, advocates a ‘decriminalisation of addiction’ to cannabis, but said he was opposed to legalisation of the narcotic substance.
The mental health expert explained that being addicted to marijuana is like contracting a disease and individuals, who are addicts need treatment rather than being jailed.
To him, convicting cannabis addicts is not proper. “If someone wants to go for cannabis like peer pressure he is not addicted, and that person you can advise him to stop. If you say his situation is a crime because he shouldn’t go for it and he does, then fine, no problem about that, but for the other person, who has used it to the point where he is now addicted, he has a disease and should be taken for mandatory treatment, if you take him to jail you are punishing him for being ill and to me that is wrong,” he advised.
He said such people will return from jail and will continue abusing cannabis, which will be detrimental to their health.