Illicit drug use and violence in acute psychosis among acute adult admissions at a South African psychiatric hospital
Background and objective: The prevalence of mental illness and illicit substance use has increased markedly in South Africa’s Western Cape Province, over the last 2 decades; potentially increasing demand for psychiatric care. This paper describes the demographic and substance use profile of patients admitted to Lentegeur (LGH), the largest of the four psychiatric hospitals in the Province.
Methods: Medical records, patient interviews and other clinical notes were used to collect data on demographics, illicit substance use, violent behaviour and utilization of rehabilitative services for patients (n=535) admitted to LGH between 1 August 2012 and 31 January 2013.
Results: Majority of admissions were male (65.6%) and younger (69.8% < 35 years) compared to females (62.6% >35 years). Overall, 255 (49%) used an illicit substance, (24% females and 63% males). Majority of substance users were youth (18–35 years) in both males (83.1%) and females (73.8%). Cannabis and methamphetamine were the most popular drugs in males (56.3% and 34.9%) and females (17.9% and 16.2%) with the highest rates being among the youth. Violence was common among both men (60.7%) and women (40.8%); among the violent, 67% of males and 35.6% of female used substances. Only 5.5% of drug users utilized formal drug rehabilitation services.
Conclusion: Substance use and violence were high, yet only a small proportion of the patients utilised available drug rehabilitation services. This may have implications on psychotic relapses, morbidity and subsequent pressure on financial resources within the health care system. Efforts are needed to maximise utilisation of existing rehabilitative resources for these patients.
Keywords: Illicit drug use, violence, acute psychosis, psychiatric hospital.