Adeeba Opposes Proposed Mandatory Drug Rehab, Only 10% To 20% Of People Who Use Drugs Get Addicted

Prof Adeeba says proposed mandatory rehab in the Drug Dependants amendment bill will negatively affect majority of people who use drugs either experimentally or recreationally, as scientific evidence shows only 10%-20% of people who use drugs get addicted.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman has expressed concern about proposed amendments in the Drug Dependants (Treatment and Rehabilitation) Act 1983 to divert individuals caught using drugs from prisons to rehabilitation centres.

Dr Adeeba, who is chair of the Drug Policy Programme Malaysia, pointed out that scientific evidence shows only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of people who use drugs become addicted or dependent.

“Mandatory rehabilitation for all would adversely impact the majority who are either experimenting or using drugs recreationally,” Dr Adeeba said in a statement today, released by the Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF).

“We must broaden treatment and support modalities to cater to varying needs, including cognitive-behavioural therapy, substitution treatments, support groups, and community-based interventions.”

She said complications of drug use are not merely physical, but also closely associated with mental health issues that require a more targeted and individualised approach.

Dr Adeeba stressed the importance of voluntary treatment, saying mandatory treatment services have shown to produce very little results while costing the government a huge amount.

“Decriminalisation efforts must be accompanied by meticulous planning, especially in preparing treatment and support facilities nationwide,” said MAF. 

“Treatment should encompass diverse approaches such as inpatient care, community-led rehabilitation, government-run programs, and voluntary support groups.”

The MAF’s press statement also cited regional consultations led by United Nations agencies in 2010, 2012, and 2015, in which member countries pledged to transition away from compulsory treatment and rehabilitation towards voluntary community-based drug dependence treatment services.

“In their joint report published in January 2022, the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) described compulsory treatment and rehabilitation as unethical and ineffective for improving health and public safety outcomes and linked to negative impacts on criminal recidivism and drug use,” said the MAF.

The United Nations issued two joint statements in 2012 and 2020 to call for the permanent closure of compulsory facilities for people who use drugs.

Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail reportedly said recently that the Drug Dependants (Treatment and Rehabilitation) amendment bill will be tabled in the upcoming Dewan Rakyat meeting that begins late next month.

He reportedly said the amendment bill aims to reduce prison overcrowding, as well as to decriminalise substance abuse and facilitate admission to rehabilitation centres.

Dr Adeeba, who is a commissioner of the Global Drug Policy Commission, urged the Ministry of Home Affairs (KDN) to engage with experts and civil society before tabling the Drug Dependants (Treatment and Rehabilitation) amendment bill in Parliament.

She highlighted the lack of consultation by KDN and the National Anti-Drugs Agency (AADK) with field experts, treatment specialists, non-governmental organisations like MAF’s Drug Policy Programme, or community-based facilities such as Pengasih, on the amendment bill.  

Dr Adeeba also called for a National Task Force on Drug Policy Reform in Malaysia – including stakeholders from government (health, law enforcement and legal entities), civil society (including expert organisations, human rights and religious bodies) and community organisations – to develop and own a drug policy that would be based on data and evidence.

“To uphold the principles of Malaysia Madani, all stakeholders impacted by drug policy changes should contribute their insights,” she said.

“Evidence, data, and on-the-ground experiences must inform our approach. Drug use transcends mere law enforcement; it is a societal concern that demands a comprehensive response.” 

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