Materia Medica Malaysiana

November 17, 2007

Five-prong strategy to treat drug users

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:45 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: There is no quick fix in treating drug users.
That is why doctors in private practice have introduced a five-prong strategy, which includes looking at drug addiction as a medical problem that needs medical care.
“Five years ago there was hardly any treatment for drug addicts, especially in the private sector. Drug addiction was not even in the realm of medical service,” said Dr Steven K.W. Chow.
But to date, he said, nearly 500 doctors had signed up to offer community-based drug addiction treatment programmes, nearly double from the 298 who registered under the National Drug Substitution Therapy (NDST) register in March.
Dr Chow, who is president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malaysia, said that the doctors would be trained to be able to roll out drug substitution services, while ensuring they were equipped with support services like counselling.
“Although 500 is a good figure, this is far from enough compared to the number of drug addicts in the country,” said Dr Chow, who was speaking at a Press conference after the launch of the 1st International Conference on Addiction Medicine, which incorporated the 4th National Conference on Addiction Medicine.
This is because since 1988 until last year, the number of drug addicts totalled 300,241, and according to the World Health Organisation, for every one identified drug addict there are three or four others unidentified, which could place the figure to between 900,000 and 1.2 million Malaysians.
The five-prong strategy, termed SMART, which is to be implemented over the next three years, also includes:
– a strategic plan to fight drug addiction;
– to upgrade the level of awareness as drug addiction was society’s problem;
– to prevent relapses; and
– to train doctors, counsellors and parents how to handle the problems at an early stage.
Currently, the government, via the Health Ministry and partner non-governmental organisations including the Malaysian AIDS Council, are carrying out Drug Substitution Therapy using methadone and a combination of buprenorphrine and naloxone.
On reports that some drug users on methadone therapy had grown addicted to the substitute, Dr Chow said that an electronic monitoring system, the Natio-nal Drug Substitution Therapy system, monitored treatment given.
“It also prevents patients from hopping from one doctor to another to prevent abuse as all private practitioners dispensing methadone are registered on it.”

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