Sunday, February 11, 2018

Probe abuse of prescription drugs

Revelations that an increasing number of people are abusing prescription drugs in the country need to be taken with the seriousness they deserve.

The Health ministry and government departments in the drugs supply chain, should act immediately to reverse this trend before it gets out of hand.

The list of prescription drugs that the authorities have issued the red flag on includes Valium, pethidine, morphine powder, ketamine and tramadol. Globally, these are currently some of the leading names in prescription drug abuse.

In many parts of the world today, the abuse of prescription drugs is leading to the deaths of an increasing number of people. Back home, the latest alert follows a crackdown on general drug abuse last year. A good starting point is that the government, through the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Parliamentary Affairs, Labour, Employment, Youth and the Disabled), Ms Jenista Mhagama, has acknowledged the problem.

As it turns out, Tanzania has not been immune to the global ‘rapid response syndrome’ that has seen many young people, students included, and some stressed out professionals resorting to the abuse of prescription medication as the ultimate quick fix.

While the minister has vowed that her office was looking into ways of handling the matter, it should be reiterated that there is a lot at stake here, especially considering the strain on families, the threat to health delivery, and of course with the related global death toll resulting from prescription drug abuse in mind. Therefore, what’s needed is urgent action against those involved in the shenanigans.

Medical personnel

It is not easy for one to get prescription drugs without the help of medical personnel at hospital pharmacies. As a matter of fact, the Commissioner for Drug Control and Treatment at the Drugs Control and Enforcement Authority, Dr Peter Mfisi, revealed that the “addicts” are working in cohorts with medical personnel. This is why an immediate and thorough investigation is necessary to plug the loopholes in the drugs supply chain – to net the culprits who are helping sustain drug addiction in the country.

Drug addiction is already a serious problem in Tanzania. Official reports show that Tanzania is battling with between 250,000 and 500,000 people abusing heroine. Out of these, as estimated 30,000 are self-injecting drug users, according to Minister Mhagama. With the misguided conceptions regarding the safety of prescription medicine across the world, there is a genuine danger that more and more Tanzanians may fall into the trap.

There are several steps the government could take to address this growing problem. The first step will obviously be to tighten the drugs supply loose ends, and investigating those suspected to be abusing and or negligently using their positions at medical facilities to hand over prescription drugs to the wrong patients.

There is also need to put in place stricter regulation on the distribution of such drugs. Finally, the Health ministry should conduct awareness campaigns to dispel misconceptions that there is no serious danger in abusing prescription drugs.