KUALA LUMPUR: Drug addicts who volunteer for rehabilitation programmes at Cure & Care (C&C) clinics are not likely to suffer a relapse within a week unlike those sent to Pusat Serenti, says Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine dean Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman.
She said C&C clinics which allow drug users to seek treatment without being detained or prosecuted have demonstrated that 50% who attend the programmes don’t suffer a relapse in a year, while the other half are able to return to become useful members of society.
She added that half of those sent for the two-year mandatory programmes at drug rehabilitation detention centres or Pusat Serenti suffer relapse in less than a week.
The rest are able to return to society, but struggle to find jobs because of their criminal records, she said.
Drug users, she added, should not be looked upon as criminals in Malaysia.
The country, she said, needed a paradigm shift by re-looking at drug addiction as a “chronic medical relapsing disease”.
“There is a big global movement to re-look how current drug policies simply don’t work, and in fact they make things worse,” Dr Adeeba said at the International Conference of Addiction, Prevention and Treatment yesterday.
She said 60% of prisoners at Kajang Prison are drug users.
“It is a very flawed ideology that has been drummed into our psyche that drug users are criminals and need to be punished and put in jail.
“And politicians don’t dare to address it as a medical illness because they think the people will not vote for them if they say drug users should be given treatment.”
She stressed that she was not seeking to legalise illegal drugs.
“But we need to stop stigmatising drug users and look at it from a scientific, modern global viewpoint,” she said, citing Portugal as an example that had a similar addiction problem 20 years ago with increasing drug use and the spread of HIV.
“The Portuguese government was brave to address it in a more rational way by escalating harm reduction programmes and provision of treatment and de-criminalisation.
“It led to a huge drop in number of people infected with HIV.”