Drug Addiction and Rehabilitation in Malaysia

by The Mind Faculty

Drug addiction is a serious public health problem, and is a growing concern in Malaysia. From 2011 to 2015, there are more than twenty thousand people undergoing treatment and rehabilitation in Malaysia. It has a serious impact on the individual, their loved ones as well as the community. Contrary to popular belief, drug addiction is not a choice or a sign of weakness. It is a chronic disease because the drug use has changed the structure and the function of the brain.

Addiction is a complex but treatable disease. Our drug treatment programs work closely with the individual to curb their compulsive drug seeking and use, with a focus on relapse prevention. We work closely with Solace Sabah, a clinical rehabilitation centre in East Malaysia, to help our clients re-integrate with their lives and their loved ones. There is a full expectation of recovery.

We chat with Mithun Kumar, the head of marketing at Solace, about the different resources available to us here in Malaysia.

It is a common misconception that drug abuse is a ‘weakness’ or a ‘choice’. Would you be able to clarify this? 

Around the world, this notion of drug abuse or addiction being a weakness or lack of willpower has been very common; people simply don’t understand why someone can have such a compulsive drive to use drugs even when it causes them harm. Today, science has shown us that addiction causes this weakened state of impulse control. Addiction is a brain disease, and there is research available to support it. When people are in ‘active addiction’, it is no longer a choice because their brain’s reward-mechanism has been hijacked. It should be treated as any other disease.

When drug use gets out of hand, it is not only the individuals but also their friends and family who suffers. Are there any warning signs that we can look out for to prevent this? 

Absolutely. Addiction has tremendous social bearings. The friends see it first, the family realizes later, and eventually medical and police personnel from the community come in when it really gets out of hand. Usually when a family or friend discovers addiction, it is already too late. Then they go into a cycle of “I can solve the problem” by reasoning, arguing, fighting and taking steps on their own to stop the addiction. The key here is not prevention but “intervention”. Being aware of the addiction and seeking professional help for their loved one. There are many ways you can identify someone with addictive traits.  You can read a detailed article on our site here.

The first step of recovery is admitting that you have a problem. During the ‘intervention’, the friends and family of the individual persuades them to enter treatment. Could you explain the importance of an intervention? How would you stage an effective intervention?

The importance here is, to whom are you admitting to? This is not to the family, police or medical personnel, but to oneself. Most addicts are in a state of denial: they feel they don’t have a problem. This is where an intervention plays a very important role. Using techniques of Motivational Interviewing and past experiences, we can help the person achieve this self-realization and decide that they need help after they accept the addiction. You can read more about how Solace Sabah conducts intervention here.

After undergoing rehabilitation, what are high-risk triggers for relapse? Are there any ways to minimize and prevent this?

Triggers are the stimuli that make an addict want to use again. They originate from the addict’s memory in active addiction. Triggers can be any sensation: sights, sounds, smells and touch. At an emotional level, triggers could be: anger, sadness, depression, anxiety and fear to name a few. The most common triggers would be social settings such as friends or places where they abused before. Early recovery is a very vulnerable time for triggers. This is the reason why recovering addicts need to rely on professionals and their program of recovery to overcome these hurdles.

If you or someone you love is experiencing substance abuse problems, please get in touch with us or Solace Sabah.