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Saturday July 12, 2008

Former drug blogger comes clean about his past

ANYONE who’s been hanging around the blogosphere for some time would have heard of, or even visited the famous Sixthseal.com, a drug blog equipped with photos and videos.

Long before blogging became popular, it managed to draw 13,000 unique visitors a day, attracting readers mainly from the United States and Australia.

Relaxed: Nowadays, Poh blogs about everything besides drugs.

But, in late 2007, the site disappeared into thin air, just about the time when I began blogging.

Poh Huai Bin, 27, the owner of Sixthseal, is back from rehabilitation and has started blogging again. Having heard the news, my curiosity took me behind the scenes to find out the true story of Malaysia’s first and last drug blogger.

“My problems with drugs and alcohol were spiralling out of control since my early twenties and it started to affect my personal life in visible ways.

“I was admitted to ICU once for renal (kidney) failure and had an emergency dialysis done through a vein in my throat. I was in the ICU for a week and suffered permanent liver and kidney damage. I have also been hospitalised for overdosing and suicide attempts.

“I wasn’t in a good frame of mind and it was decided that something needed to be done before I killed myself,” Poh admitted.

He then checked into a private 28-day drug rehabilitation programme in Kuala Lumpur but soon found himself back on drugs. His second attempt at rehabilitation was also in KL but Poh ran away after a few days.

“I was sent to a third drug rehabilitation centre, which was a little bit more restrictive than I imagined. I was stripped naked and forced to wear a sarong in addition to being handcuffed and shackled (even during bowel movements) due to escape attempts.

“The punishment for escaping was being restrained in a jail cell and I only had The Bible for companionship then. Food was sent in through a tray with plastic utensils and I was in serious withdrawal and bored to death,” he said.

Poh explained that sixthseal.com was never meant to be a drug blog but to promote harm reduction and drug education via self-experimentation and use.

His Guide to HIV Testing in Malaysia entry (dated March 2004) on how to get an anonymous HIV test at local clinics won him a Red Ribbon Media Award under the Non-Traditional Award category in 2004.

“I think it was revolutionary in that sense – it was the first totally non-anonymous drug blog in the world with photos and videos of myself using and even people from the United States were amazed at how I could get away with it.”

Poh didn’t get away in the end and he was arrested in 2005 by the Police Narcotics Division.

“I still remember the day two gentlemen showed up at my office. My assistant buzzed them in while I was listening to music on the headphones and working. I remember looking up and taking off my headphones, offering my hand to the two men, thinking they were clients and smiling.

“The lead inspector then showed me a printed copy of my photo from my About Me page and asked 'Are you Poh Huai Bin? I’m Inspector X from Narcotics'.

My smile faded and I thought about the stash I had in my house. The police wanted to handcuff me but my previous boss stepped in and said it was not necessary. I was then escorted down to a waiting van parked below.

“Long story short, I was told to bring them to my residential address and hand over the keys, upon which a raiding party found a significant amount of drugs of various types. I was in jail for the standard 14-day remand before being bailed out for a hearing in early 2006.

“I was finally charged with a reduced sentence of possession (Section 6 of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952) which carries a jail term of two years and/or a fine not exceeding RM 20,000,” he said.

Nowadays, Poh blogs about everything besides drugs.

“I was asked to remove my drug posts by the Narcotics Division as part of my appeal for a reduced charge and I did,” he said.

“Don’t get into trouble with the law with photos of yourself with the Big Two – drugs and sex. You can write a controversial article, get in the limelight, and then fade away. No one would even remember you, it’s just a matter of time before someone out there gets you,” he advised.

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