Illegal drugs common on wards

By Lunar Loops · May 14, 2006 · ·
  1. Lunar Loops
    This appeared on the BBC news website today:

    Illegal drugs 'common' on wards

    By Matthew Chapman
    BBC Current Affairs

    The head of a psychiatric hospital admits more than one in seven patients takes illegal drugs on the wards.
    In recent weeks patients have smoked crack cocaine inside Chase Farm Hospital, in north London, while others have smuggled cocaine inside fast food.
    Meanwhile, a BBC survey suggests there is a laissez faire attitude to drug use in NHS mental health trusts.
    Some said they would not automatically call the police if they discovered drugs dealers on their premises. There are strong links between mental health problems, the taking of illegal drugs and violence, with one major study finding that psychiatric patients with drugs problems kill up to 32 people every year.

    But Oliver Treacy, borough director for mental health services for Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust, admitted: "It is quite common that patients will use drugs on wards.
    "It can make patients worse and it can actually introduce a sense of desperation and violence."
    He estimated that up to 14% of patients in some wards at Chase Farm were currently taking drugs on the premises.
    That is a reduction from a high of 20% in recent years, a figure which had prompted extra security measures, said Mr Treacy.
    "It prompted us to address this issue and bring in procedures and policies that bring it to the situation we are in today, which is the impression that we are managing the situation."
    Sniffer dogs Human rights legislation prevents hospitals from randomly searching patients so Chase Farm has brought in sniffer dogs to regularly sweep the wards.

    Drugs workers helping in-patients at the hospital said one patient recently took crack cocaine on the ward.
    One nurse said it was difficult to stop all illegal drugs entering the hospital.
    Samuel Ankara said: "One patient was using a bed sheet to drop out of his window to pick up drugs from a dealer below, then another one tried to bring in drugs hidden inside a kebab."
    There are no national figures showing how widespread illegal drugs are on psychiatric wards.
    However, one study in north London concluded that almost half of the patients in some hospitals continued feeding their habit on NHS property.
    Peter Phillips, a former nurse, spent several months on wards in Camden and Islington, London.
    He found that almost half the patients in hospitals admitted to taking illegal drugs before admission, and of these, the great majority, 83%, admitted to drug use on the wards.
    Drug user
    Typical of the inpatients on wards who continue to buy and use illegal drugs is Chris, who is currently detained on a ward in London after being diagnosed with bi-polar depression, which means he suffers from violent mood swings.
    The 24-year-old, who has three children, has been in and out of psychiatric wards since 2001.
    He says his condition is linked to his drugs use.
    "I have seen patients in other wards and they're meant to be mentally ill and they doing crack, but I don't get involved in that."
    Chris, whose name has been changed for legal reasons, admits to smoking cannabis on the ward.
    "I've smoked cannabis in the smoking room and the staff noticed but they let me get away with it."
    Differing policies
    Experts say the problem is not helped by the fact that different NHS trusts have different policies on dealing with the issue.
    BBC Radio's Five Live Report conducted a sample survey of some dozen mental health trusts around the country to find out what their policies were when drugs are found on wards.
    Asked what they would do if they found patients dealing in drugs on the ward, five NHS trusts said they would not automatically contact the police.
    Asked what they would do about patients found in possession of drugs, six trusts said they would not automatically call the police. Asked finally what they would do if a visitor was suspected of smuggling in drugs, four trusts said again that they would not automatically call the police.

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  1. Nagognog2
    This is tabloid journalism at it's best. Here we have a story of mental patients using drugs. And here we DON'T have the full story on this.

    In the USA we use a diagnostic system called Axis 1, followed by Axis 2. And further on up the ladder. Axis 1 implies that the patient is suffering from a mental illness. One then describes the illness within scientific parameters. Let's take Bipolar Disorder:

    Patient X exhibits symptoms of this by crying hysterically one day, and believing they are chosen by God the next. Okay - we diagnose Patient X as having a bipolar disorder (highly simplified example).

    Now, through interviews, we determine that Patient X smokes marijuana. We now diagnose Patient X to have Axis 2: Bipolar Disorder and self-medication with drugs. Now what do we do? Oh we call the newspapers and determine that the marijuana (Axis 2) caused the mental illness (Axis 1)! Ha!

    This will happen in some places. Some head doctors of nuthouses belong in them - but not as administrators. Most progressive physicians will recognize that Patient X is seeking relief from their illness by using a bit of grass, or xxxxxx, to alleviate the pain of the illness. So Axis 2 becomes, as the number implies, of secondary importance. To bring in The National Enquirer to diagnose a causitive factor of biploar disorder as Patient X smokes pot is utterly irresponsible. It belongs with other high quality publications: Next to TV Guide and Your Horoscope in the check-out line at the supermarket.

    Many people who suffer from a mental illness will attempt to place the blame on some sort of cause that is ludicrous. I knew one person who flipped his wig and stole a trolley-car in Boston and went for a ride - picking up passengers along the way. To this day he lays the blame squarely on astrology: The Stars Were Out To Get Him! But were the stars out to get him before or after he took the trolley-ride? I would say that the Stars made him do it about as much as using illicit drugs made "Chris" a client with a bipolar disorder.

    These days doctors do not bother hunting around for causitive factors when treating the mentally ill. Doing such is a bottomless-pit. And it delays an efficacious treatment. Axis 1 and Axis 2 has an ever-widening gap between how they are interpreted. Like how someone who kills his wife, and was drunk at the time, can't get off the charges using "I was drunk!" as an excuse.

    But bless the tabloid press. Keep people scared. Shock and frighten. Give people something to rail against. Even if it has no meaning whatsoever.
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