The teenage girl who drove against traffic on the highway and caused a tragic accident may be suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and could have taken drugs in an attempt to self-medicate, said an expert.
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Datuk Dr Lai Fong Hwa said if she was registered as having a learning disability, the most likely disorder was ADHD.
Police found a Person with Disabilities card issued by the Social Welfare Department on the 19-year-old girl and she was listed on the card as having a learning disability.
She also tested positive for amphetamine.
On Tuesday, she drove at high speed on the wrong side of the North-South Expressway near the Sungai Dua toll plaza, hit five vehicles and killed a motorist.
Dr Lai said the learning disability category covers a wide scope of disorders, such as mental retardation, low IQ, autism and dyslexia.
"We must be clear that when people have learning disabilities, it does not mean they can act like this.
"This is only a possibility, but I suspect she may have ADHD."
He said children and teenagers with ADHD should be treated with a drug known as methylphenidate, known more commonly as Ritalin.
"It will help them to think rationally and regulate themselves, but many parents misunderstand and think it causes ill effects when it doesn't if used correctly.
"ADHD youths are known to have a higher risk of drug abuse because they know something is wrong with them and they try to self-medicate.
"Amphetamine is one other drug which treats ADHD people," he told The Star.
The psychiatrist, who had served in Penang Hospital and is now practising part-time in Island Hospital, said an ADHD patient can be described as someone "having a brain without a policeman".
"They can get carried away and overdo things.
"They lack certain brain operations and have problems with attention, concentration, memory, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and social skills."
A spokesman for the Penang Road Transport Department said people with disabilities can still own a driving licence.
"There are different types of driving tests to determine if people with disabilities are fit to drive," he said.
He said the department would look into the doctor's recommendations on the girl when she first applied for her driving licence if requested by the police.
Central Seberang Prai OCPD Asst Comm Nik Ros Azhan Nik Abdul Hamid told reporters Thursday that the teenager would be charged in Bukit Mertajam on Friday for drug abuse under Section 15 of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.