‘We Don’t Support The Legalisation Of Marijuana’

Professor Joseph Bediako Asare, Chairman of the Mental Health Board has appealed to Government to reject the call by Mr Akrasi Sarpong, Executive Director, Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) to legalise the use of marijuana in the country.

He noted that so far, there had not been any evidence to show that smoking of marijuana is beneficial to the health of those who use it and wondered why some people would call for its legalisation.

Professor Asare said this on Thursday during a forum for journalists on mental health which was organised by BasicNeeds Ghana, a mental health and development advocacy non-governmental organisation.

He noted that the fact that some people had used the drug for a long time without any negative repercussion on their health did not mean that it was good for human consumption.

Professor Asare called for Government’s support for pharmaceutical companies in the country, which had ventured into the manufacturing of drugs for mental illness since such drugs would be cheaper and available as compared to those imported.

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He called for support for persons with mental illness as that could help in the management and cure of the disease.

Mr Peter Badimak Yaro, Executive Director of BasicNeeds Ghana, bemoaned the low number of psychiatrists in the country and called for the recruitment of more.

He said: “We have only twelve psychiatrists currently in the country with majority of them working in psychiatric hospitals, all located in the southern-coastal parts of the country.

The only psychiatrist in Brong Ahafo has also recently retired from active service with the Northern Region having only one resident psychiatrist who is a lecturer at the University of Development Studies.”

He said the Upper East and Upper West Regions had no resident Psychiatrists while the Eastern, Volta and Western Regions relied on barely one psychiatrist in each region.

He noted that many of the psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses were retiring or nearing retirement without any proper measures to replace them.

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That, he said, had left a huge gap of inadequate human resources which had been filled by traditional and spiritual healers.

Mr Yaro said the inadequacy in human resources had also affected how psychotropic and anti-epilepsy medicines were administered to persons with mental illness and epilepsy at the lower levels of mental care.

He bemoaned the lack of opportunities, personal development and career progression by mental health workers at the community level.

He said the absence of relevant data on cases of mental disorder had been cited as one of the reasons negatively affecting the attention, which ought to have been given to mental health.

He stated that very few psychiatric units had computers to help them in data collection, processing and analyses, with vast majority of psychiatric units keeping files on shelves.

Mr Yaro said psychotropic and anti-epilepsy medicine supply and distribution in the country had been very irregular representing only 40 percent of the required quantity.

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Nii Nortey Duah, Clinical Psychologist, appealed to the media to make issues relating to mental health their priority in order to enable more people to gain insight into the illness.