Consumption of psychoactive substances, a scourge that persists in Cali, how to combat it?

One of the scourges that has constantly been presented in Santiago de Cali is the consumption of psychoactive substances (SPA). According to the District Health Secretariat, between 2020 and 2021, 11,608 cases were reported in the city. Additionally, the Mental Health team has received, during 2022 alone, 4,000 calls to provide care in this regard.

The most recent National Survey on the Consumption of Psychoactive Substances (ENCSPA), carried out in 2019 by the Colombian Drug Observatory with the support of Dane, indicated that 10.2% of the people surveyed in Cali have consumed illegal PAS, for at least at some point in their life, while the national average was 9.7% and in the department of Valle, consumption was 9.2%.

For the study, inhalable substances, Dick, Popper, marijuana, cocaine, basuco, ecstasy, heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, mushrooms, yagé, cacao sabanero, ketamine, GHB and 2CB were included in the category of illegal PAS.

Nationally, 71% of the population between the ages of 12 and 65 surveyed indicated that occasional smoking of marijuana, one of the most commonly heard substances, would create a great risk to their health. Despite this, marijuana remains the order of the day, with 92.7% stating that at some point they have been offered this substance for consumption.

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Likewise, 54.9% of the people, in the 49,712 households that were surveyed, mentioned that it would be easy for them to obtain marijuana, which ranked above cocaine (33%), basuco (32.1%), ecstasy (21.6%) and heroin (12.2%).

The early age of starting consumption has become one of the biggest concerns in this regard. The data from the Health Secretariat of Cali reveal that the beginning of this activity occurs at a younger age. Six out of ten consumers (62.3% of the total of 11,608 cases) access SPAs between the ages of 10 and 28, with an average age of around 25 years.

Psychologist Diana Valencia argued in this regard that “since the age of 10 we have been treating cases of patients with exploratory beginnings in consumption, and it is from 12 to 17 years of age that there have been more reports.”

The specialist stated that Cali has been characterized by having high rates of this activity, “but with the recent issue of the pandemic, this caused us to have more access to certain information. What does that mean? That young people are finding it easier to use the Internet, and when it is not used well we have more access to negative information”, such as the use and consumption of illegal substances.

The psychologist Valencia also questioned the use of vapers without proper knowledge and indicated that “we must work a little more on the response capacity of all institutions and environments in this situation, starting from the family.”

On the other hand, according to the Ministry of Health of Cali, the male gender is the one with the highest rate of consumption. 7 out of 10 cases occur in men, while the remaining three correspond to women. In fact, the population group that consumes the most is men between 24 and 28 years old, followed by adolescents and young people between 12 and 23 years old.

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What is being done to combat the problem?

The Cali Ministry of Health has promoted the ‘Weaving Dreams’ initiative, which consists of identifying consumers in the city from a job in the territory to subsequently provide them with a whole path of care, support and rehabilitation.

Despite the high rates of consumption in Cali, Miyerlandi Torres, Secretary of Health, stated that “the results we have so far are satisfactory. They are based on screening, identification of risk and damage. These people identified with medium or high risk have been referred to health institutions, where we are working with functional mental health units.”

This year around 250 people have been trained to deal with SPA consumption in the capital of the Valley, with which it has been possible to identify 158 individuals who are at medium and high risk of consumption, who are already in treatment, according to the Ministry of Health.

Mobile units have also been put into operation that visit schools and some places in the city. Nearly 17,000 students in more than 25 educational institutions have been intervened and trained on the risks of consuming these substances, and 240 of them have been referred to the provider network with medium or high risk of consumption.

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Similarly, it was indicated that review visits have been made to health institutions and foundations to verify that adequate treatment is carried out for these people, where 58% of non-compliance with requirements has been found in the Administration Entities of Benefit Plans. of Health (EAPB).

“We hope in the next few days to have the closure of around five or six of these institutions and foundations. We are reviewing the legal part due to the non-compliance with requirements regarding mental health treatment, especially regarding the consumption of psychoactive substances”, assured Miyerlandi Torres.

It is also recurrent that people go to the Social Welfare Department of the Mayor’s Office to obtain help with their problematic consumption situations. Faced with this, María Fernanda Penilla, secretary of this organization, clarified that her office does not work directly on these cases.

“If any of the populations that we care for and protect, such as young people, homeless people or women, present this situation, what we do is activate the route so that they go to the health system and do the corresponding treatment that from that Secretariat, the EPS and IPS have been arranged for it, “said Penilla.

legal substances

Legally consumed psychoactive substances also harm the health of the population. These are alcohol, tobacco and tranquilizing drugs.

The figures of the most recent Social Pulse Survey, carried out by Dane, whose results correspond to the March-May 2022 quarter, say that:

8.2% of household heads and their spouses surveyed in Cali stated that they had consumed alcoholic beverages or cigarettes as a mechanism to feel better.