Taskforce For Treating Alcohol And Substance Abuse On Cards

GOVERNMENT is in the process of setting up a taskforce mandated to come up with national treatment guidelines for alcohol and substance abuse disorders in Zimbabwe to be used as minimum norms and standards for treating patients in this nation.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

On the sidelines of an Addiction and Substance Abuse Workshop in Harare last Friday, Health and Childcare Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo told HealthTimes that as Government, they are seized with the matter of having good facilities to treat and rehabilitate mental health patients.

“For those who are affected we also want to ensure there is adequate facilities in the country to rehabilitate them. That is the key issue right now because the problem is set on us, we have to find means and ways of correcting and making sure that they return to normal,” he said.dWhile officiating the event, the Health Minister also said they are reviewing the draft strategic plan for mental health services which will be availed soon.

“There is need to formulate policies specifically addressing alcohol and substance use guidelines for care in this area in line with the international guidelines and recommendations. And this will facilitate a coordinated evidenced based, national efforts to manage these disorders and ensure a public health approach to the problem with universal access to care not just for those who can afford to pay for treatment but everyone else.

“And this is in line with the sustainable development goals 2015 to 2030 which encourage countries to reduce by one third premature mortality from NCDs (Non Communicable Diseases) through the prevention and treatment and promote mental health and wellbeing. Target 3.4. And then strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse including narcotic drug abuse, and harmful use of alcohol.

“To achieve this here, is need for a multi-disciplinary and multi sectoral approach, to formulate sustainable solutions and this is why we are all gathered here to map the way forward on treatment and rehabilitation of alcohol and substance use in the country,” said Dr Moyo.

Health and Childcare Mental Health Deputy Director Dr Chido Rwafa said from their surveys, they noticed that many patients in mental health institutions misuse alcohol, cannabis and prescription drugs.

“Our surveillance data is showing that alcohol and substance misuse are one of the top three diagnoses presented to our mental health institutions. Many of the substances include alcohol, cannabis, prescription drugs including codeine contained in cough syrups,” she said.

She added that they found in the surveys that the majority of patients admitted to their mental health facilities use substances such as alcohol, cannabis as well as cough syrups. Dr Rwafa also said children of school going age are using with others believed to be selling these illicit substances.

“Substance misuse is mainly affecting our young people. Young people are starting to experiment with drugs as early as 12 or 13, primary school years. This is causing a lot of disruption in our communities, in our families,” she said.

Dr Rwafa said the taskforce is multi-sectoral and multi-discplinary.

“Up to 40 percent of admissions as of 2015 were linked to substances but this figure has since gone up. Our outpatient data has also shown that there is a steady increase since before 2014 to present. “There is a steady increase in presentations linked to substance abuse and many of our health workers do admit to skills deficit. There is need to improve our skills in terms of how do you manage someone with an admission problem,” added Dr Rwafa. “This stakeholders meeting is part of our efforts to develop our national guidelines for treatment and rehabilitation of substance misuse.  We are hoping to form in this meeting a multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral taskforce that will be part of the development process. Once we’ve got guidelines, we start to upscale our nursing staff and our healthcare staff to be able to manage these conditions in a public health approach where everybody gets care from the local clinic level to the district  and provincial hospitals.”

Kurarama Trust director Dave Martin said mental health disorders slacken economic development in terms of downtime as workers are likely to spend many unproductive weeks. He said Zimbabwe is showing its concern to address mental health issues like substance use disorders

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