Manus Detainees Still Offered Malaria Drug After It Gave Staff Psychosis

Detainees in the Manus Island detention centre are still being offered an anti-malaria drug that has reportedly led to several workers at the centre experiencing psychotic episodes.

The use of mefloquine, known by its trade name Lariam, has been described as “risky” by experts, particularly for individuals who suffer from mental illness.

Paul Stevenson, a psychologist on the island, said that multiple staff experienced short term psychosis as a result of taking the drug, with symptoms like anxiety, depression, paranoia and delusional thoughts.
While the Therapeutic Goods Administration advises the drug should not be taken by people with a history of depression, anxiety or psychosis, it is still being offered to detainees – a great deal of which Stevenson says suffer from extensive depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr Jane Quinn, a neuroscientist from Charles Sturt University, says that exposing detainees to the drug is highly inappropriate:
“The probability of anxiety or depression in that population is extremely high, therefore they would be … contra-indicated from taking the drug at all.

“We’ve seen the high rates of … unusual behaviours that can occur in detention situations – suicide attempts, the incidence of aggression and violence. All of those are likely to be fuelled, in part, by use of this drug.”
The Australian Defence Force received criticism for distributing mefloquine from 2001 to 2003, reportedly inducing severe mental illness in a small group of veterans who took the drug.
Australia and Papua New Guinea recently announced that Manus Island will be shut down, after the PNG Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional, but as yet have not given any indication of when the shutdown will take place.
Source: The Age.
Photo: Getty Images News.