Getting into business to feed addiction

MALAYSIA - Starting with marijuana, he quickly advanced to crystal meth (syabu).

The pint-sized teenager was first introduced to drugs by a schoolmate he believed was working with pushers in his Cheras neighbourhood.

He was forking out at least RM50 a day as his addiction grew more serious.

Because his daily pocket money was only RM5, Remy said he turned to crime, such as breaking into cars for small change and valuables, to fund his habit.

He soon began snatching handbags and stealing motorcycles.

"Supply is not a problem because pushers seem to know your face.

"Drug addicts know that in every district and neighbourhood, there is at least one tokan (pusher).

"Usually, there are more than one, and we identify them quickly as we cannot rely on a single pusher, in case he runs out of stock."

When Remy's parents discovered his addiction, he was sent to a National Anti-Drugs Agency's Cure & Care 1Malaysia clinic for treatment.

The Fourth Former had been exempted from school until December to complete the treatment.

The youth admitted that he was also selling heroin and marijuana to friends in small amounts.

For Rahmat*, 43, his heroin addiction and the returns that came with it drove him to sell what little supply he had for profit.

"I did it because I got hooked on heroin and was spending enormous sums to feed my addiction.

"It became a small business until I was caught with about 80g of ganja three years later. I was sentenced to two years in jail.

"Behind bars, I made a lot of friends, from addicts to pushers.

"Apart from learning more about other crimes, I also found out where to get cheaper drugs," the recovering addict told the New Straits Times.

It was soon after his release that Rahmat returned to his old habits and became increasingly dependent on drugs.

He advanced to serious drug dealing, known among addicts and pushers as buka kedai (open shop).

"I operated at a 'port' (haven for addicts) and was selling directly to end users who frequented my kedai on a daily basis.

"I could earn RM1,000 daily on bad days, or over RM2,000 on good ones," he said, adding sometimes, more than one pusher would operate at the "ports".

He said drug addiction among the youth was not new and dropouts had been his regular customers since the 1980s.

Rahmat claims to be a small-time pusher and fifth down the hierarchy of drug distribution syndicates.

"There are at least four more levels up before one gets to be the tukang masak (manufacturer or smuggler) and at this level, he will be funded by a 'master'.

"The hierarchy among pushers is strictly observed and a pusher only deals with the one directly above him.

"This is to ensure two things: to avoid detection by the authorities and protect the interests of each pusher."

Remy said those at level four and above were the ones making the big bucks, but were usually not drug addicts themselves.

He said drug abuse in the country could only be solved if the supply chain was totally plugged and syndicates behind it reined in.