Updated: Jul 6
Having already suffered from the crippling and disastrous psychophysical effects of dangerous narcotics and illicit substances—be it debilitating mental anguish or excruciating sickness—an addict, eventually detained by the authorities for his crimes, is put into rehab—dreading the pain he is to endure. He nevertheless pushes through the detoxification process—incurring violent withdrawals and painful seizures—and prays every night alone for his recovery, motivated by the dream of a life of normalcy. After months have passed his eyes start to glisten and begin to smile—he is finally brought back out in the world, sober. Bearing his scars, he sets out on a new chapter of his life.
He comes to find however that his dreams would be short-lived. His wounds begin to draw negative attention, he is turned away from work and is mercilessly shamed, shunned by friends, family and given the cold shoulder—deemed as a menacing social pariah to be avoided by his community—he is left abandoned, miserable and alone, finding himself in the very painful situation he had once been in. This narrative is but one of the many lived truths of recovering addicts in Malaysia and it needs to change.
The issue of drug addiction that plagues the country unfortunately is one such problem that is highly recidivistic as it reoccurs habitually. Relapses among addicts continues to be exceedingly high post-rehab, at a rate of 28% according to a UKM study. While the issue of relapses may be attributed to a panoply of different factors, public neglect happens to be one of many such underlying causes that require urgent redress as it could serve to exacerbate the already worsening situation in the country. Kuala Lumpur-based think-tank “The Centre” reported that in 2022, a census had showed that just 6% of Malaysians were tolerant of those who had a history with drug addiction. Addicts have reported instances of mistreatment, their efforts to reintegrate into Malaysian society being severely maligned due to public perception.
This ought to concern Malaysians as this significantly undermines the efficaciousness and overall purpose of the country’s drug rehabilitation institutions for if the very function of these asylums is to condition addicts in a way that facilitates both their recovery and eventual assimilation into society is counteracted with desert from the public—effectively ostracizing them—these efforts become wholly ineffectual, amounting to an exercise in futility. The victims of drug abuse, who aspire a life of change, ought to have their practical needs accommodated for they should take the necessary steps towards progressive recovery. The persistence of public skepticism stems from a continued distrust and lack of conviction as to the tarnished profile of former drug addicts, wary as to the potential in inadvertently introducing troubled communities into their environment. This is only exacerbated by the issue of societal fragmentation—with Malaysian communities and former addicts confining themselves to their own respective, distinct areas; distancing themselves from healthy integration.
This raises pressing concerns, societal divisions of this magnitude only concentrate on the influences of drugs in particular areas inadvertently turning them into narcotic cesspits. The Malaysian authorities have already establish that, for instances, low-cost government housing continues—particularly in Batu, Wangsa Maju, Setiawangsa, Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras, Titiwangsa, Lembah Pantai and Seputeh— to be breeding grounds for the illegal substances as irresponsible actors take advantage of the high volume of addicts dwelling in these areas, exploiting demand and effectuating a strong stranglehold on these communities.
These issues are but a recipe for a future public health emergency, gradual spill overs from these communities into Malaysian societies allows the metastasizing spread of dangerous substances across the country—infesting both rural and urban communities—and in socially quarantining disaffected groups, the problem of drug addiction isn’t eradicated but momentarily suppressed—pushed away to dark corners to develop in potency and influence before it finally draws out its fangs and rampantly ravages the country as a whole, affecting present and future generations. If sunlight has been described as the best disinfectant, then what is needed—from the perspective of public policy—is for a light to be shone at these dark crevasses such that the roots of disintegration between communities may be identified and uprooted, driving out hostile forces that encroach upon isolated groups—strengthening social unity and harmony.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s proposed national philosophy of “Malaysia Madani” envisions a country that enjoys the benefits of a developed civilization. This vision must encompass a planned mission to oversee the settlement of recovering addicts in Malaysian communities if the nation wishes to experience true prosperity. The government could look into establishing stronger, newfound initiatives to develop social inclusion policies. In order for Malaysian societies to have their trust reinstated, the authorities not only ought to develop its rehabilitation institutions but develop new social protection mechanisms. This pertains to institutional assistance being afforded to former addicts connected with interested communities, i.e. establish NGO’s, to aid and oversee their transition from rehab into everyday life, allowing for better integration.
The authorities must also ensure, in order that trust is preserved, that the actions of recovering addicts continue to be strictly monitored so as to provide the assurance that public interests in security are also accounted for. Coordination with Malaysian social services, watch dogs and NGO’s ensures that a more socially cohesive network may be built; preventing the influence of drug-pushers. The establishment of such a safe space may come to draw more people from disenfranchised, poorer communities that suffer from these issues to take refuge in a healthier community. This increases the effectiveness of institutional initiatives that aid addicts with opportunities for work and housing for the long-term.
The government could also explore the decriminalization of hard drugs and develop more comprehensive educational and awareness campaigns for recovering addicts. This all-encompassing mission could serve to extirpate the problem of drug addiction in the country permanently. Through it, we might just see a Malaysia Madani inclusive for recovering addicts too.
Society Says Entrant,