BANTING - Nurlina Mohd Ismail and her family took 10 years to "save" her little brother who, by the age of 14, was a full-blown drug addict.
The 33-year-old consultant remembers driving late at night around Sepang, looking for her brother in the back alleys - high on heroin or syabu.
"For a time, it was my mother who would deal with him. She sent him for rehabilitation, but he would run off."
"He would steal my parents' jewellery to get his fix. When he doesn't have his drugs, he would try to kill himself. It fractured my family."
"That's when we realised that we all needed to be a part of his rehabilitation," she recalled.
His siblings would hold interventions for the young addict and accompany him to every rehabilitation session.
Her brother finally managed to pull his life together and gave up his addiction for good.
"My brother has his own company now, and is married with children.
"Now, he roams the streets looking for his old friends to try and help them," said the proud sister, who penned his battle against addiction in a short story which won the grand prize in the National Anti-Drugs Agency writing competition.
"No one can truly overcome drug addiction without the full support of his family," said Nurlina, who won RM5,000 (S$1,890) for her entry.
The competition was open to the public, university and secondary school participants in June as a means of kick-starting conversations on the family level about dealing with addiction.
The agency's director-general Datuk Suhaimi Abdullah said addiction was becoming a worrying trend amongst youngsters.
"Over 78 per cent of addicts in our rehabilitation centres last year were under the age of 39 and some were even as young as 13. This year, we recorded 327 new addicts in that age group, up by 16 per cent fromlast year.
"This is becoming a problematic trend, given the availability of opiate and amphetamine drugs nowadays. We can continue with our enforcement and awareness programmes, but the key to eradicating it is with the help of the addicts' families," he said at the agency's headquarters yesterday.
He said the authorities were committed to working towards ASEAN's vision of being a drug-free region by 2015.
The youngest winner in the contest, SMK Syeikh Abdul Ghani student Intan Syafira Rostam, 15, also channelled her family's struggle in rehabilitating her uncle in her short story.
"It was always chaotic in my home. My uncle couldn't control himself and would shout or throw things.
"It was only after my grandfather's death that he tried to turn his life around," she said.