Probe into claims cocaine, cannabis are being smuggled into psychiatric unit

Complaints have been made to gardaí about illegal drugs being smuggled into a hospital in the West for use by patients in the psychiatric wing.

The Mayo Garda Drugs Unit visited the mental health unit at Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar after complaints were made about cocaine and cannabis being brought in by the public.

The HSE West say “swift and appropriate action” has been taken, but a former patient at the hospital said that when she first told staff, “they did not want to know”.

“I was in there before Christmas and as soon as I went in, I was offered drugs,” the woman said. “I was openly asked did I want cocaine or cannabis. There are people bringing it especially for the patients.

“There’s supposed to be random drug tests going on but its not happening and even after I warned them, I asked another patient to keep an eye out, and she said no searches took place.”

A spokeswoman for Mayo Mental Health Services said yesterday they are “aware of a particular issue in relation to non-prescribed medication being brought into the ward by members of the public”.

She said “swift and appropriate action has been taken and the matter has been reported to the gardaí”.

David McCarthy of Mad Pride Ireland, the advocacy group for those with mental health problems, has said that the mixing of illegal and prescription drugs can be “particularly dangerous” for those with mental health problems.

“It’s very serious, as many anti-depressants are mood-altering as it is,” he said.

The former patient also criticised the unit for a “sloppy” approach to the handing out of prescribed medication.

She claimed tablets such as benzodiazapenes are dropped on the floor and not removed by staff.

The HSE West strongly denied there is a cavalier attitude to dispensing medication and said “there has been no issues in relation to inappropriate prescribing nor are there any drug-related issues pertaining to any member of staff working within Mayo Mental Health Services”.

It said that the unit “is inspected regularly by the Mental Health Inspectorate and by An Bord Altranais to ensure our practices in all regards are compliant”.

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up