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Drug abusers in Accra 

Here is a short summary of a scholarly article: Socio-demographic Characteristics of Substance Abusers Admitted to a Private Specialist Clinic, by JJ Lamptey.  Ghana Med J. 2005 March; 39(1): 2–7.

The article was published in the Ghana Medical Journal 39(1): 2–7 in March 2005 and is free online via any search engine (e.g. Google). It can also be downloaded by following this link:

We have also posted the summary in facebook here 

The aim of this is to honour mental health research in Ghana, to assess it, help familiarise everyone with it and to see how the findings can be used to help patients and practitioners.


Since time immemorial people have eased themselves of the stresses of daily life by using drugs, herbs and potions but at what cost ….and who become the addicts ?     Young males mostly become the addicts and the author of this research suggests it might be because being male is associated with aggression, violence, independency and adventurism, which are potent factors in the initiation of substance abuse.  The author suggests the protection of the extended family is giving way in Ghana to the nuclear family with bad consequences and broken homes are the worst thing especially if a young man is left with only his mother.

The study conducted in 2005 by JJ Lamptey compared characteristics of 87 substance abusers admitted to a 28 bed private clinic in the Accra Metropolis of Ghana between 1997 and 2002, compared with 87 randomly selected non-drug using students and staff of Legon University.

Lamptey found:


  • Most abusers started their drugs between ages 15- 24 years.
  • They were usually age 20-29 years before being admitted to the clinic as they didn’t seek help until 4-5 years after starting drugs.
  • Most were males
  • Their parents were often divorced, separated or never married.
  • Losing a father was worse than losing a mother
  • Religion had no effect on the chance of using drugs.
  • Most drug abusers felt that the attitudes of their families towards them were either warm or normal.
  • Starting treatment was often triggered by parents and relatives.


So perhaps losing a parent or both parents through death or long separation negatively impacts on a child especially where there is no appropriate substitute and lack of paternal authority or role model can be especially bad.

All the findings are similar to those found in other countries including the United Kingdom.

Interestingly, the study found no link between religious affiliation and becoming a drug abuser. One wonders why this is the case when a good proportion of the main religions practiced worldwide teach young people to stay away from “sin” and drug  abuse is frequently labelled as a sinful act.

So how should we put these findings to use in our day to day practice as mental health workers ? 

We reccomend you see our facebook post to join in the conversation 

The summary was written by Dr Olusola Awonogun, senior psychiatry trainee and Dr Mark Roberts, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, both of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Hampshire, UK.