KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 — The Malaysian Substance Abuse Council (MASAC) urged the government today to gazette ketum as a drug under the Dangerous Drugs Act before the end of the year.
Its secretary-general Raja Azizan Suhaimi said the drastic measure to tackle ketum water addiction is to avoid an increase in new addicts due to an uptick in the abuse of the substance.
“It’s time to stop taking ketum addiction lightly as it is a neglected issue that will overwhelm the country if left unchecked and it’s urgent to gazette ketum as a drug,” he said in a statement today.
Raja Azizan said private drug rehabilitation centres across the country can be mobilised to register ketum addicts as inhouse patients or as outpatients to receive one-off treatments without being punished using government funds as an early intervention measure before ketum is gazetted.
Non-governmental organisations (NGO) relating to drug abuse that have no drug rehabilitation facilities should be provided funds to organise talks and to channel information to those who have not been involved or just exposed to ketum water use.
“MASAC hopes that if government funds are used to help NGOs tackle the ketum issue, let it come from the Health Ministry for the first two years before the gazettement of ketum as a dangerous drug.
“These NGOs can utilise the funds, facilities and expertise as an initial effort to curb the growing issues related to ketum abuse,” he said.
Raja Azizan also said that MASAC fully supports the Prisons Department to make In Community Rehabilitation Approach the main option to reduce repeat offenders, especially with drug abuse cases and the sale of drugs on a small scale by 2030 as it would not only solve prison overcrowding but also tackle repeated drug addiction in a cost-effective way and encourage addicts to obtain treatment voluntarily.
“Drug addiction is a chronic mental disease that can easily recur and that is why the Health Ministry must be involved seriously in treating addicts to change the public perception that drug users are criminals, and that is the main reason they relapse.
“Orders to undergo community rehabilitation can be issued by the courts for those involved in drugs so that they will undergo rehabilitation properly and any attempt to avoid rehabilitation can be punished with a heavier prison sentence,” he added.