Give appropriate ‘punishment’ for drug use

Psychiatrist suggests a careful review of ketum and cannabis are regulated for research purposes


THE use of ketum and cannabis for medical purposes should be allowed as there are potential health benefits if used in controlled dosages, Hospital Selayang psychiatrist Dr Hazreen Abdul Rashid said.

In an interview with The Malaysian Reserve (TMR), he said patients should not be denied the opportunities to get better treatment just because the country’s laws prevent good and thorough research from being conducted.

Dr Hazreen suggested a careful review of these drugs are regulated for research purposes, while being wary of potential abuse.

In regards to recreational use of the substances, he said some would give the same argument of why alcohol is legal despite its well-documented and extensively researched negative consequences for both mental and physical health.

He elaborated that there are many different aspects to the issue of substance abuse, such as the legal, psychological, social and individual.

“The relevant parties are not talking to each other as much as they should, so the best way to go now, I think, is for dialogue and for everyone to learn from each other’s points of view,” he told TMR.

He hoped that whatever decision the government makes, justice will prevail for all involved.

“It is justice if the users receive a punishment that is proportionate to the amount or size of their wrongdoings, and not greater than the harm that the substance itself is causing them.

“The current problem is that the punishments that the courts impose on users of ketum and cannabis are disproportionate to the harm that the substances are causing,” he added.

Dr Hazreen listed abject poverty, recidivism, chronic mental health issues and unemployment as some of the problems that either lead to drug abuse and vice versa.

Besides users, Dr Hazreen said there must be protection for family members who suffer through terrifying safety and security issues when a user turns aggressive from illegal drugs like syabu and amphetamine.

He also urged justice for the taxpayers. They have the right to know that their hard-earned money is being spent on effective treatment programmes for drug addicts and integrate them well into society instead of becoming a revolving door for repeated offences.

Dr Hazreen concluded by explaining that different drugs have different biological and social profiles, and cannabis as well as ketum fall under the lighter spectrum of harm.

On Nov 9, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said medical marijuana can be used in Malaysia so long as it adheres to existing laws, marking a shift in the country’s stance towards the substance.

Khairy Jamaluddin made the statement in a written reply to Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, stressing that the products would have to be registered with the local Drug Control Authority.

The Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulations 1984, Poison Act 1952 and the Dangerous Drug Act 1952, among others, would have to be adhered to for the importation and sale of the products.

At the time, he said that the government should not avoid discourse on the topic purely due to societal sensitivities, but instead, be guided by studies based on data and science.