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Zbornik radova Pravnog fakulteta u Nišu
2014, iss. 68, pp. 515-534
article language: Serbian
document type: Scientific Paper

Forensic psychiatry approach to mental disorders resulting from substance abuse
Univeristy of Niš, Faculty of Law



Projekat Pravnog fakulteta Univerziteta u Nišu: Usklađivanje prava Srbije sa pravom Evropske Unije


In the last few decades, mental disorders resulting from substance abuse have become a frequent phenomenon, which features diverse forms and degrees of severity. In addition to being a medical and extremely harmful social phenomenon, substance abuse (commonly known as drug or narcotics abuse) is frequently a subject matter of research in many sciences or scientific disciplines, such as medicine, psychology, sociology, legal science, etc. Drug abusers may develop diverse mental disorders, which largely depends on the type of psychoactive substance which is being abused and the method of taking narcotics (including frequency, daily dose, mode of administration, etc.). In this paper, the author provides an overview of different types of mental disorders according to the applicable International Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders. The disturbance of mental functions due to drug abuse (which may or may not result in the development of a mental disorder) changes the perception and behaviour of drug users. The disturbance of mental functions becomes particularly prominent in the circumstances where substance abuse has turned into a drug addiction; the basic characteristic of the dependence syndrome is an irresistible urge (craving or even compulsion) to take the substance in order to enjoy its effects again or to avoid/relieve the drug addiction crisis or the abstinence syndrome, which may be extremely painful and agonizing. As a consequence of these mental disturbances and other disorders arising from drug addiction, human behaviour may be disrupted to such an extent that a person may demonstrate some criminal conduct, which ultimately makes these mental disorders highly relevant in the field of criminal law. Given the fact that the criminal offender is a drug abuser who may have different forms of mental disorders, there is a need to consider the offender's mental capacity (sanity), which ultimately makes these mental disorders highly relevant from the point of view of forensic psychiatry. The author's primary goal in this paper is to present the basic postulates underlying the perception of drug abuse and drug addiction in forensic psychiatry, both from the theoretical and practical point of view. In exploring the practical aspect of this issue, the author focuses on presenting the basic principles of forensic-psychiatric expertise of criminal offenders who have been diagnosed as having mental disorders caused by drug abuse. The expertise includes different aspects of assessing mental disorders: giving professional opinions on the offender's mental capacity (sanity), assessing the potential danger of recidivism or commission of a more serious criminal act, and giving proposals for relevant of security measures concerning the mandatory treatment of drug addicts both in outpatient clinics and in other relevant in-patient medical institutions. Given the fact that mental disorders stemming from drug abuse frequently have numerous financial, family and professional implications, the author presents some forensic psychiatric attitudes pertaining to the assessment of contractual capacity of these persons, the assessment of their working capacity (including the remaining working ability or temporary inability to work), the assessment of mental capacity for exercising the parental right or custodianship rights. In that context, the author provides the forensic psychiatric aspects of these mental disorders from the aspect of civil law. Drug abuse and drug addiction involve serious and complex socio-pathological problems which are difficult to treat/cure. This paper is the author's contribution to casting light on these issues, primarily from the aspect of forensic psychiatry.



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