PETALING JAYA - Party drugs or amphetamine type stimulants (ATS) have become the bigger enemy to fight in teenage drug addiction.
University of Malaya Centre for Addiction Sciences (Umcas) director Dr Rusdi Abdul Rashid said ATS drugs such as methamphetamine or syabu, ketamine, ecstacy and Yaba were currently the most prevalent in the country.
"They are common among youngsters, especially during parties, hence they are also called party drugs.
"At a Cure & Care (C&C) Centre that I went to in Kota Baru, about 80 per cent of 200 patients were under 18. Some were as young as 14 and most of them were on Yaba," he said.
He added that in another C&C in Sabah, more than 90 per cent of those abusing drugs were on ATS, while heroin and cannabis had become uncommon these days.
"Now ATS is also cheaper than before. It can cost only RM10 to RM20 for a dose and it is getting cheaper. Since there are so many types, it can be hard for the police to keep tabs.
"What makes it worse is that there is no pharmacotherapy agent or medicine to help ATS addicts deal with the withdrawal symptoms when they are on rehabilitation.
"For opiate drugs there is methadone, but for ATS there is only psychosocial intervention," said Dr Rusdi.
Psychosocial intervention includes motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy and group therapy.
However, Dr Rusdi said that psychosocial intervention required a pharmacotherapy agent to be more effective.
He added that University Malaya had been researching for more than a year to find a medicine to reduce the withdrawal symptoms of ATS.
They were also looking for patients who were willing to be part of the study.
According to Dr Rusdi, they were now using the anti-psychotic medicines aripiprazole and risperidone to block the psychosis effect of ATS.
"From our preliminary findings, the medicine also reduces the craving by addicts for the drugs.
"We are also looking to recruit more patients and are providing free medication for three months.
"Those who want them can come to our office," he said.
He added that the medicine had been used for some time to treat schizophrenia, but now they were looking to find new indications (therapeutic uses) for it.