A retrospective review of trends and clinical characteristics of methamphetamine-related acute psychiatric admissions in a South African context
Objective: Epidemiological studies indicate that methamphetamine (MA) abuse poses a major challenge to health in the Western Cape. The objectives of this study were to retrospectively assess the trends, clinical characteristics and treatment demand of MArelated admissions to a psychiatric ward in this region. Method: The clinical records of patients admitted to an acute psychiatric admission ward at Tygerberg Hospital from 1 January 2002 to 30 June 2002 and 1 January 2006 to 30 June 2006, were retrospectively reviewed. Admission numbers including those of adolescent and adult substance users were compared for both study periods. Study samples comparing demographic profile, admission status, length of stay, psychopathology, treatment requirements and referral pattern to other disciplines between MA users and non-users were collected for the 2006 period. Results: There was a significant (p <0.01) increase in adolescent substance user admissions between the study periods. A significant (p <0.01) increase in adolescent and adult MA user admissions was also noted. MA users were significantly (p = 0.04) younger than non-MA users, whilst the former presented mainly with psychotic features associated with aggression, requiring involuntary admission of an average of 8 weeks. MA users required significantly (p = 0.007) more benzodiazepines compared to non-MA users. Conclusion: Although MA use is relatively recent to the Western Cape, its adverse psychiatric effects and
consequences have become a major challenge. These effects in both adolescent and adult patient populations and the associated impact on psychiatric services demand urgent intervention strategies as well as prospective study.
Keywords: Admissions; Methamphetamine; Psychopathology; Psychosis; South Africa