Details on drug decriminalisation still being ironed out, says deputy minister


DETAILS on the move to decriminalise drug addiction are still being fine-tuned.

The Home Ministry is currently engaging with the related stakeholders about the move, including the Health Ministry and other agencies.

“Discussions are still ongoing to finalise the details,” Deputy Home Minister Datuk Mohd Azis Jamman tells Sunday Star.

Asked when the Bill to amend the law can be tabled in Parliament, he says, “It depends on how soon we are able to finalise it.”

In June, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad had announced that Malaysia will decriminalise drug addiction.

He had said that decriminalisation meant “the removal of criminal penalties for possessing and using a small quantity of drugs for personal use”.

Stressing that this doesn’t equate to legalising drugs, the minister had said drug trafficking “will undoubtedly remain a crime”.

When contacted, the ministry’s disease control division calls drug addiction “a chronic and relapsing disease.”

“Drug addicts should be treated holistically through bio-psycho-social and spiritual methods.

“This in order for them to gain better quality of life and function well in the community,” it says.

At present, the Health Ministry is running a pilot programme to screen and treat drug addiction, or One Stop Centres for Addiction, in six health clinics around the nation.

This move is in line with current trends that show a global change of drug addiction from conventional opioid-based drugs to polydrug usage (when a person uses more than one type of drug).

Such one stop centres are being implemented in six health clinics around the country, namely Butterworth in Penang, Cheras in Selangor, Masjid Tanah in Melaka, Kuala Besut in Terengganu, Menggatal in Sabah and Miri in Sarawak.

“We will consider expanding these one stop centres to other areas depending on the outcome of the pilot project,” says the ministry’s disease control division.

However, such centres need more resources including experts like psychologists, medical social workers and case managers.

“Furthermore, our health clinics are not only managing addiction problems, but also all cases from “womb to tomb”,” it adds.

Apart from that, the ministry has medication-assisted therapy for opioid-based drug addiction being implemented nationwide.

Such therapy, conducted in 511 government treatment centres and 278 private facilities, have aided 55,695 active patients as of 2018.

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