Mental Health, Mental Disorder foundation APN
Mental Health

Cost of Care, Treatment of Mental Illnesses Rising – APN President

The President of the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), Prof Taiwo Obindo, has stated that the cost of care and drugs for individuals undergoing treatment for various mental health conditions has continued to rise.

Speaking in a recent interview with PUNCH Healthwise, he stated that those accessing care, especially for substance use disorder, are finding it difficult to keep up with the cost of treatment.

Substance use, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says, is the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.

Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit online academic medical centre, described substance use disorder as a mental health condition in which an individual has a problematic pattern of substance use that causes distress and impairs their lives.

It added that SUD involves a strong and uncontrollable desire to use the substance and there are withdrawal symptoms when it is stopped.

A 2019 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Nigeria shows that 14.3 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 years abused drugs.

A study on the Assessment of drug and substance abuse prevalence among undergraduates in selected southwestern universities in Nigeria by John Olanrewaju et al, revealed a 45.7 per cent prevalence rate.

It further indicated that one in every four students abused substances despite an aggregate risk awareness level of 94.6 per cent.

In December 2023, the Chief Medical Director of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr Olugbenga Owoeye, stated that the centre witnessed a 100 per cent increase in admission cases.

In 2022, he revealed that more than 60 million Nigerians suffer from mental health illnesses.

According to an article on mental health and substance use published in the National Drugs Library, mental distress may lead to substance use as a coping mechanism.

On the other hand, substance use may also lead to mental distress or worsen pre-existing mental health conditions.

The rise in the prices of goods and services caused by the fuel subsidy removal and the decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria to float the naira, which has led to depreciation of the currency and inflation, amid other factors, has further led to an astronomical rise in the prices of drugs and hospital care.

Speaking further on the issue, Obindo said, “Substance use is a major challenge. The cost of care for those who have substance use disorder has risen. Many Nigerians can’t access appropriate care, maybe because they do not have adequate knowledge of what the illness is, and therefore, they seek help somewhere.

“But those who even know and would want to access care don’t have access to the right kind of treatment and that is where integrating mental health conditions fully into the Primary Health Care would help.

“For those who can access care, the cost of care and that of the drugs are quite prohibitive now. Most of the companies manufacturing the drugs are not in the country and some of those here are leaving the country.

“As a result, those who have been accessing care before are now finding it difficult because the primary thing is feeding and shelter before thinking of something else.”

The APN president called on the government to “come to the aid of Nigerians”, even as he also urged people undergoing stress to seek help and not resort to suicide.