KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27 – An addiction medical group called today for legal amendments to allow drug users to easily seek treatment instead of facing arrests and incarceration.
Addiction Medicine Association of Malaysia (AMAM), a sister group of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM), highlighted an increasing number of drug-related arrests since 2016, according to statistics from the National Anti-Drugs Agency (AADK).
“Amendments to relevant provisions in the Drug Dependants (Treatment and Rehabilitation) Act 1983 will enable those in addiction to legally and confidently seek medical treatment are urgently needed,” said AMAM president Dr Steven Chow in a statement.
Dr Chow referred to a speech by Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye in Bangi at the opening of the Asia Pacific Society for Alcohol and Addiction Research Conference incorporating the 10th National Conference on Addiction Medicine.
Dr Chow also announced his support on behalf of FPMPAM and AMAM on “this important development in the on-going battle against drug addiction.”
“The medical fraternity have long appealed for a compassionate approach to the management of those afflicted by drug addiction and advocated for the important role of medication assisted therapy (MAT) together with psychosocial intervention at all levels of the community. The scientific evidence of addiction as a chronic brain disorder is irrefutable,” he added.
“We urge that political will be focused to ensure that this policy decision be translated into administrative action to prevent condemning another generation of young Malaysians into a lifetime of addiction. On our part as medical practitioners, we offer our services and resources to the government to achieve this goal.”
Dr Sivakumar Thurairajasingam, who is Deputy Head (Education) at the Clinical School Johor Baru, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Monash University, previously said the Drug Dependants (Treatment and Rehabilitation) Act should be amended as it appeared to be punitive, frequently threatening incarceration against people deemed to be dependent on drugs.
According to him, “mere suspicion” sufficed to arrest one under the Act, with authorities allowed to remand one suspected of drug use for 14 days just to get the drug test results.
He also said public medical officers would immediately consider a suspected drug user to be “dependent” once their test results came out positive, even if the nabbed suspect may have been trying narcotics for the first time.
Dr Sivakumar also said most AADK Cure & Care centres did not provide proper treatment to drug users, as they still practiced the cold turkey approach. Once drug users leave such centres, they’re not allowed to go back.