Pulling the young to push drugs

KUALA LUMPUR - Drug syndicates expanding their distribution network have made their way into schools, turning students into their pushers.

These young dealers zero in on fellow students as their market, aside from making them their designated pushers for areas assigned to them.

The Home Ministry is pulling out all the stops to disrupt the distribution chain in its effort to shield young Malaysians from drug abuse.

The ministry revealed to the New Straits Times that it had identified triads directly involved in drug smuggling, manufacturing and distribution, and those targeting students to expand their target market.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, said agencies under the ministry were working round the clock to arrest the drug problem -- from distribution to addiction -- including among the youth. This includes ramping up intelligence and enforcement operations.

"We have established that these triads are directly involved in the distribution of drugs in the country.

"Law enforcement agencies are working to combat the buying and selling of drugs, apart from providing treatment and rehabilitation for addicts," he said, adding that most of the 49 triads identified under the police's Op Cantas Khas were running drug-related businesses.

Zahid attributed the increasing number of drug abuse cases to the spike in violent crimes.

Records from authorities revealed that at least 84 per cent of criminals and gangsters arrested under Op Cantas Khas, launched on Aug 17, had a history of involvement in drug distribution and abuse.

Sources said police had also launched multiple raids against drug labs, smugglers, suppliers and small-time pushers and addicts.

Several triads have been identified as active drug distributors, including the 04, 08 and 36 gangs.

He urged parents and guardians of teenagers addicted to drugs to seek treatment from the National Anti-Drug Agency (Nada).

"The government is concerned about the problem, which has worsened over recent years and is threatening the country's young.

"They must be sent for rehabilitation at clinics, which offer special programmes that can help them kick the habit."

Nada puts the number of drug addicts in the country at no less than one million.

Its director-general, Datuk Zuraidah Mohamed, said 2,714 of its patients (until July this year) were those aged between 13 and 20. This includes 287 students below 15.

"Parents of young addicts are usually ashamed to be involved in their children's intervention, but in our programmes, we always remind them that their children are sick and can be cured.

"We involve parents in our treatment modules, especially those tailored for young addicts. Because of this, we are seeing more parents coming forward with their children in tow," she said.

Over the last two years, the agency has helped 7,000 addicts who voluntarily sought treatment from its Cure and Care (C&C) Clinics.

"We treat addicts who come to us for help and see them as clients who want to be cured.

"Aside from treating them, we give them hope and show them how life can be better without drugs.

"This approach, applied at our 11 C&C clinics, have significantly reduced the percentage of relapses," said Zuraidah, adding about 70 per cent of addicts discharged from its C&C clinics remained clean.

Zuraidah said Nada's C&C programmes offered three types of treatments: in-patient (for serious addiction), outpatient and clinical.

She said the programmes includes modules for psychosocial development, medical assistance and vocational training, which aims to allow patients to integrate with society upon discharge.

Medical-assisted therapy (MAT) is also used to treat severe addiction of opiate-based drugs, such as opium, morphine and heroin, where patients are prescribed methadone.

Zuraidah said those seeking treatment or know of anyone needing intervention to consider checking into Nada's programmes. More information on the agency can be found at its website www.aadk. gov.my, by contacting its headquarters 03-89112200, or by visiting any of its C&C clinics.