The law provides for penalties for those found importing some of the commonly abused substances
Health workers treating patients with mental illnesses have demanded the operationalisation of the anti-narcotics law to improve the delivery of psychiatric services in the country.
The law was accented to in 2014, but it has never been gazetted. Therefore, the law cannot be used to regulate some of the issues that are increasing alcohol and substance abuse in Uganda.
Dr David Basangwa, a senior consultant psychiatrist, said the law provides for penalties for those found importing some of the commonly abused substances.
He said this while officiating a training workshop for psychiatrists, doctors and clinical officers involved in the treatment of people with mental illness at Silver Springs Hotel, Bugolobi, Kampala on Friday.
The training was organised by the Psychiatric Association of Uganda and Butabika Hospital.
The association aims at improving the treatment of people living with mental illness through education and skills development of young professionals.
Because there is no regulation, many people are still importing substances commonly abused.
"If we are to do good in terms of treatment of people addicted to drugs and substances, we need other supporting processes. One of them is a supporting law that will regulate narcotics and substances use," he said.
Currently, treatment is limited in a few areas, keeping out many people with mental illnesses, added Basangwa.
Basangwa explained that with the law, there will be a mechanism of expanding the services in areas that lack psychiatric centres.
It will also allow the institution to get a body that will regulate mushrooming rehabilitation centres and related medications among the mentally ill to ensure that they are instituted with the right facilities, professionals and the right medication.
"Continuous training is necessary given that there is constant improvement in drugs and management of the patients and new things keep coming on board,” said Basangwa.
He added that despite the ongoing sensitization campaigns on the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse, students account for the biggest number of patients who are checked into hospitals for treatment.
"Young people, especially students are increasingly taking on the consumption of alcohol and substances like kuber. These account for 20% of patients admitted regularly and these are in the age bracket of between 18 and 28," he added.
To prevent the situation, Basangwa advised parents to create more time for their children including the adolescents to guide them so as to come up with better decisions in life.
Dr Catherine Abbo, a senior lecturer and child and adolescent specialist, said students are increasingly consuming the above substance due to lack of guidance from their parents.
"The problem is increasing due to poor parenting where by more time is spent at work by parents than with children who become vulnerable to join activities as long as it makes him or her happy," said Abbo.
The problem has been made worse by the fact that alcohol is readily available and the packaging which is in small packs makes it easy for students to conceal the pack in between the books or pockets without being noticed by teachers.