Methadone therapy not without problems

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I would like to throw my support for the Malaysian government's plan to distribute needles and condoms to drug addicts to curb the spread of HIV/Aids among drug addicts.

But while I believe this plan may prevent the spread of HIV/Aids, I believe it merely attacks the symptom but not the problem, which is drug addiction. One must also question the government's selection of the 'solution', methadone, to fight heroin addiction.

The addictive methadone is no miracle drug. In fact, in my home country, Australia, statistics have revealed that many addicts who use methadone to cope with withdrawal symptoms often slide back to their 'old habit' while many find themselves addicted to it.

On top of the poor success rate, methadone is found to cause a number of drug overdoses much like its nemesis, heroin. This is because addicts, many of whom suffer emotional problems, are supplied with medication that when combined with methadone, can be fatal.

Also, nations supporting methadone therapy find themselves struggling to cope with the supply of the drug for new addicts while supporting old addicts who are jobless under the influence of the 'cure'.

This means that a nation will continue to lose precious lives and manpower to drug abuse while creating an insatiable demand for an underperforming drug.

My question is: With the advent of new drugs that fight addiction while addressing the concerns above, why is the Malaysian government insisting on this outdated treatment method?

Another point to note is that nations supporting the methadone programme are facing a new problem - illegal trade of this 'cure'.

With the already existing problems faced by Malaysian enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies, I believe we are opening the floodgates to future problems by creating a new market for drug peddlers while not attacking the root of the problem.

Perhaps what we should consider is a holistic solution that addresses the problem of drug abuse from a medical point of view, coupled by professional counselling and support to free those afflicted by this scourge to allow them to lead a normal life.

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