Malaysia's drug policies need reform - Dr Adeeba

23 Oct 2023 11:35pm
Dr Adeeba - FILE PIX
Dr Adeeba - FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM - AIDS Foundation Malaysia chairperson Professor Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman has called on the government to revamp drug policies, focusing on science, human rights, and decriminalising drugs for personal use and possession.

To fulfil this aim, Dr Adeeba stressed the importance of the government partnering with academics, civil society, and the Drug Policy Programme secretariat to craft progressive, humane, and evidence-backed drug policies.

"We urge the government to extend the Madani concept by educating the community about drug use and adopting suitable measures against drug abuse.

"Merely imprisoning or sending users to mandatory rehabilitation centres isn't the answer.

"It's crucial to delve deeper into understanding drug use and its treatment," she said, referring to the 2024 Budget's emphasis on second chances under item number 208.

On Oct 13, the 2024 Budget allocated RM393.8 billion with an aim to empower citizens and spur national growth.

Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim declared the government's intention to modify the Drug Dependent (Treatment and Rehabilitation) Act 1983, enabling drug addicts to receive treatment without imprisonment.

Dr Adeeba further highlighted the need for the government to broaden comprehensive treatment initiatives in tandem with the Health Ministry, the private sector, and civil society groups like the Malaysian Care Association and Cakna Terengganu Community.

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"These groups provide community-based treatments, proving effective in motivating individuals to seek help.

"They foster a nurturing community setting, which has shown to be more advantageous for addiction treatment than mandatory rehab or jail," she added.

She also pointed out that community-based opioid treatments, which include methods like agonist therapy or methadone, have an 80 per cent lower addiction risk compared to compulsory rehabilitation programs.

"It's high time we pivot away from costly and unproductive mandatory drug tests, arrests, and detentions.

"We should replace forced rehabilitation schemes with community treatment alternatives based on evidence.

"By integrating a public health approach, we can cut down on crime and dissolve the negative stigma tied to drug users," she said.