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Drug addicts need treatment and rehab, not imprisonment, says health minister

Dr Zaliha Mustafa says prison is not the place to treat drug addicts.

1 minute read
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa. Photo: Bernama
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa. Photo: Bernama

Drug addiction is a chronic disease that requires treatment and rehabilitation, not detention or imprisonment, says Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa.

She also said that prison was not a place to treat drug addicts and could impede them from functioning as productive members of society.

"Prison is not the last resort for educating individuals involved in drug abuse," she said in officiating the Addiction and Forensic Psychiatry Symposium 2023 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

She said a distinct approach from a public health standpoint was needed to provide treatment and rehabilitation to drug addicts.

She also acknowledged many gaps and challenges that should be addressed between law enforcement and medical treatment for drug addicts.

Zaliha said in addition to the legal point of view, there were also challenges in rehabilitation centres where drug addicts struggle with symptoms of withdrawal syndrome or physical and mental illness due to drug addiction.

"This poses difficulties in formulating an effective treatment plan... this also prevents appropriate treatment and rehabilitation from being given and delays the legal process.

"As a result, the disease prognosis worsens, and the court becomes more congested," she said.

She added that the legal system and treatment through a community-based approach could be the catalyst for the desired change.