SEREMBAN - Thirty-one years after it was declared the country's number one enemy, drug abuse remains a major problem with some of the latest addicts being as young as seven years old, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
"Stringent laws have been put in place to check the menace, but it does not seem to deter some of those bent on breaking it.
"In fact, we found a seven-year-old boy who was already hooked on drugs last year and this is certainly worrying," he said at the national level Anti-Dadah Day here yesterday.
In 2013, he said, the youngest addict found was nine years old.
"Syndicates are luring the young by mixing drugs into sweets and giving these out for free. They later get the young hooked on drugs," he said, adding that these gangs had also found new ways to market their drugs and were now targeting the Z generation or those born after 2000.
"They have also found new means to produce new and other synthetic drugs and are always finding ways to escape from the authorities," he said.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said addicts in the country now numbered some 1.4 million, with 21,227 new cases registered last year.
In 2013, there were 20,887 and 15,101 the previous year.
"We have to take note that for every new addict found, there are three others unaccounted for," he said, adding that latest statistics also showed that 42 per cent of the 49,200 prisoners nationwide were detained for drug-related offences.
Four out of the 10 people in the 47 prisons across the country were jailed for drug-related offences while another 3,267 were on the death row for serious narcotics crimes, said Dr Ahmad Zahid.
Although the Government had over the years introduced several programmes and measures to educate the people, particularly the youth, on the dangers of drug abuse, he said more needs to be done.
Education director-general Datuk Seri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said 1,416 out of 48,000 students tested positive for drugs during random checks last year.
"Although the figure seems alarming, we are glad to note that this has been on the decline over the years," he said.