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Experts: Treat drug abuse as public health issue, not crime

A roundtable discussion on drug policy comprising health experts and enforcement agencies has resolved that the country's approach to drug abuse requires urgent reforms.

In particular, participants called upon the authorities to view drug abuse as a public health issue, and not as a criminal justice issue, in view of large volume of empirical research supporting this.

Several experts who presented their findings during the discussion outlined problems posed by the existing drug policies, such as how incarceration of an addict without treatment would cause relapse and other problems.

Alternatives to the current punitive approach, said the experts, was decriminalisation of individual drug users and diverting drug users from prison to community-run rehabilitation services.

"Not all drug users need to be in hospital and certainly not in prison.

"Through the discussions we have today, we hope to assist the police and others to relook at how things are being handled at the moment," said the dean of Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine, Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, who chaired the discussion at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday...

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