Psychiatric and physical complications

A history of drug misuse is often found nowadays in young male patients presenting with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorders. Such patients may be especially prone to violent behaviour. In some, the drug misuse appears to have triggered the psychosis; others have used the drugs as self-medication for their psychotic symptoms.

A typical case would be a young person with a chronic psychotic illness, precipitated and maintained by cannabis use. It may strike the patient as unfair that he should be advised against this drug, which his friends can perhaps take without apparent ill effect. However, cannabis is undeniably a potent exacerbating factor in psychosis.

The government has also confused the issue recently, downgrading the legal classification of cannabis, and issuing unclear guidance as to how the police should deal with a person possessing it. In fact, it remains illegal and harmful, especially to psychiatric patients.

Medical complications, sometimes fatal, often arise from the intravenous injections of opiates and other drugs. They include infections (abscesses, phlebitis, septicaemia, hepatitis, endocarditis, pneumonia, and HIV) and arterial occlusions leading to gangrene of limbs. Drug misuse in pregnancy may be teratogenic, and lead to complications with the pregnancy or birth. Poor diet and poor hygiene in drug misusers lead to various impairments of health.

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