A mental health expert is worried about the increasing abuse of strong pain reliever, Tramadol, which has become very popular among the public, particularly the youth
He consequently called for urgent action to discontinue the abuse of the drug.
A Consultant Psychiatrist at The Brain Clinic at Abokobi in Accra, Dr Yao Mfodwo, fears the continuous use and abuse of the drug can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
“It is as bad as a very silent Ebola or a very silent Lassa fever,” the medical doctor who formerly worked with global pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, with responsibility for neurosciences and sexual medicine said.
Tramadol, a restricted medication, used to treat severe pain, has become almost “a street drug” for the treatment of a normal pain like headache, sometimes with approval from health practitioners.
Its use has sharply gone up among the younger generation because of the reported excitement of prolonged ejaculation, despite reported serious side effects that include seizures, increased risk of serotonin syndrome, decreased alertness and drug addiction.
“This is why the police and the law enforcement agencies must go after the people who are illegally selling or trading these things…this is a public mental health emergency, Dr Mfodwo said on Joy FM in Accra yesterday.
Dr Mfodwo previously worked at the Benoni Sleep Centre, Johannesburg, DISA Clinic, Johannesburg and the Department of Correctional Services of South Africa with the responsibility for providing psychiatric services to Pretoria and Moderbee Prisons for 10 years.
Having been involved in multinational pharmaceutical sponsored drug trials as a Principal Investigator, Dr Mfodwo counselled the concerned authorities to take pragmatic steps to curb the abuse of Tramadol.
He said, “even the drug itself is not as potent as when it is broken in the body; it is 200 times more potent when it is broken in the body” and advocated the establishment of rehabilitation centres where people who have issues can seek help.
“But if we are not talking about these things regularly, we are not also then providing the options for treatment where people can get help then we just end up talking without doing anything about it,” he lamented, stressing that people who abuse the drug must be given the option of treatment.
“We don’t have treatment outlets, we are not collecting data [and] we are saying very little about it, but it is happening so we have to start doing all these things so that we are at least aware of what is going on and then we are able to respond and do something about it,” he advised.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has joined forces with a number of sector agencies to curb the illegal distribution and sale 0f the drug.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of the FDA, Mrs Delese Mimi Darko, her outfit would partner with the Pharmacy Council to boost their surveillance
Speaking to the media yesterday, Mrs Darko said a joint task force will be formed in the coming days to champion that agenda.
“We are collaborating with the Pharmacy Council because the Pharmacy Council is responsible for the practice of pharmacy and also with the health facilities regulatory agency, which also registers pharmacies and chemicals and licenced medicines sellers. We are forming a task team in the next few days.
…They are doing what they are doing but we think that we should actually come together and move out wider within the regions,” she said.
The FDA CEO said the task force will, among other things, visit possible places that Tramadol is sold, adding that the team will also “visit chemical shops because they (chemical shops) would be obtaining some of the product legally, some as well may be obtained at places that we are not aware of.”
Tramadol is a pain relief drug, which, according to medical experts, functions like heroin, and can cause psychotic problems as well as damage vital organs in the human body if abused.
Recent surveys have shown that the drug is being abused by some youth as well as some market women, drivers and in some cases students.
Story: Mizpah ETORMENYE MENSAVIE-AYIVOR
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