YOUTH, MENTAL HEALTH & DRUG ABUSE IN THE GAMBIA

This is something we barely see articles on – but it is colossally necessary that we find these tragedies enthralling. Substance abuse, particularly cannabis, and mental health issues are spiking gradually, and if we look keenly at the age groups affected, the youth folks become the major culprits and victims it pinpoints.

In most street ghettos, young folks embraced and sanctify a lifestyle that perpetuates the use of intoxicating substances that remains staunch in blurring and altering consciousness. It is worth noting that cannabis smoke contains many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke – a known contributor to many pathophysiological impairments.

According to a Harvard Health publication, August 2017, the cannabis plant contains more than 100 unique chemical components classified as cannabinoids. These are the active ingredients that bind to specific receptors in the brain and other parts of the body. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) one of the most prevalent substance in the plant, is primarily responsible for the mind-altering properties sought out by recreational users.  

Progressively, the World Health Organization’s Mental Improvement for Nations Development in 2007, estimated that, 120 000 people in the Gambia had mental illness, with about 3000 receiving treatment per annum. Around 12% of the people in The Gambia are likely to have a mental disorder and 3% a severe mental disorder. Until now, these figures are consistently proliferating, serving as a beacon of admonition to give utmost attention to this serial destructor of potency.

As alluded earlier, cannabis (marijuana) is known to induce series of psychological disorders that undermines the mental, physical and social wellbeing of victims. In furtherance of the foregoing, an In-patient study shows that the commonest disorders leading to admission are substance misuse (most frequently cannabis misuse). Evidently, a cannabis-induced mental disorder is mostly preceded by fluctuating awkward demeanours, unscrupulousness, vicious social acts, thievery, assaults on the vulnerable groups, inter alia.

It would rather be tragic, to give a blind eye to this pandemonium plaguing the lives of the most productive age group. It is unanimously affirmed that a healthy population, particularly the youth folks fosters economic dividend. As it stands, Gambia as a country, grappling with persistent underdevelopment, political inefficiency, economic repression, corrosive social status, cannot in anyway afford to start losing its engine at just a very young age—55 years. This engine—the youth folks are considered to make up more than 60% of the country’s population. This potential havoc can derail the country’s path towards development.

At a proactive stand point, the youth folks are expected to reach their full potentials and serve as the instrument for the development of this nation. This can only be actualized if our concerns are addressed, our plight is given utmost priority, and our health conditions are improved. This means that: more stringent measures has to be put in place to address drug abuse by the youthful populace; law enforcement agencies must become strict in implementation; investment in psychiatric treatment centres must be increased; amplification of voices of the leading advocates of mental health in the Gambia must be echoed.

Closing up on this, cumulatively: in other to resolve problems that untiringly continue to impede our progress as a nation, it is utterly judicious for youths to be emancipated from the shackles of drug addiction, reverse the cheerless trend of mental health problems – unarguably, they are the cream of this nation – a very common adage has it that, “any nation that invest in its youths and tap into their potentials is a nation inevitably navigating the trail of progress”. I hope you find wisdom and inspiration in this to advocate for mental health and fight against drug addiction as much as I do.

Author: Modou Lamin Emess Jammeh

BSc Public Health Student

Department of Public and Environmental Health

School of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences

University of The Gambia.

Published by Emess Jammeh

Emess Jammeh is an ardent writer, Teacher, Youth Activist, Debater, Mentor, Article Reviewer and Editor. He is also a youth leader in many Civil Societies.

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