SUKA Society was interviewed by Masami Mustaza of the New Straits Times to share on the issue of drug abuse among young people. Read the article below –

KUALA LUMPUR: The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry will change public health programmes to reach out to youth at risk of drug abuse. Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said yesterday the statement by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Abu Seman Yusop, who had said that boys as young 10 were substance abusers, was something that she viewed seriously and found disturbing.

Abu Seman, who was speaking at a National Anti-Drug Agency event on Thursday, said about 80 per cent of habitual users were between 15 and 40 years, while many as young as 10 used drugs taken through the nose and mouth. Shahrizat said there was an urgent need to increase awareness of this risk among the young, in addition to physicians, parents and the public.

“Adolescents must be made aware of the dangers of using cocaine, heroine and marijuana and also inhalants such as glue and aerosol spray, which are cheap and legal.” She said her ministry, through the National Family Planning and Population Board, would work with ministries, agencies, parent-teacher associations and non-governmental organisations to help them reach out to more at-risk youths.

SUKA Society (Suara Kanak-Kanak) Malaysia executive director Anderson Selvasegaram said children abusing drugs were not unusual. “Children will explore on their own if they do not understand what they are doing and the consequences of their actions.” He said parents played an important role in instilling good values in children, for example, on how to make friends and decisions.

University Malaya Medical Centre child and adolescent psychiatrist Associate Professor Dr Aili Hanim Hashim said this kind of behaviour was seen in younger children as they may have older peers who indulged in such activity. “Children’s curiosity is aroused when they talk to friends who advocate taking drugs, not knowing that there is a negative side to drug use.

“Most children with this kind of behaviour are those who are easily bored, are fed-up with schoolwork and have family conflicts. “They are more inclined to follow friends who are into activities they think are exciting,” said Dr Aili. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Fairuz Nazri Abd Rahman said that based on her experience, many youngsters who used drugs would have started off by drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. “Many of the youth brought in by their parents for behavioural problems were discovered to be drug users but they may not necessarily be addicted to drugs.”