Some students swear they help them burn the midnight oil, while club revellers claim they help them party until dawn. But they are far from being cool or designer in any way.
What these youths need to have drummed in their heads is that there is a heavy price to pay for taking synthetic drugs like ketamine, Ecstasy, Eramin 5 and syabu.
The effects of these designer drugs, which addicts either snort, inhale, swallow or inject, is similar to cancer as it kills slowly. The addiction is almost always incurable and the after effects irreversible.
Specialist Dr Mahmud Mazlan, who has been treating drug addicts for more than a decade, stresses that synthetic drugs are far more deadly than opiate-based drugs.
Unfortunately, because of the perception that they are "cool" and "clean", and that addicts of synthetic drugs are often not the dishevelled-looking dregs of society one encounters in back alleys, some think they are not dangerous. But the converse is true.
"Opiate-based drugs such as heroin, opium and morphine attacks a single receptor in the addict's brain. However, synthetic drugs affect several areas of the brain and bring about more side effects," he says.
"Synthetic drugs can lead to hallucinations, paranoia and amnesia. Addicts can also suffer multiple organ failure as the drugs affect the lungs, heart, liver and kidney."
Of all the synthetic drugs in the market, methamphetamine or syabu or ice is considered the most dangerous. There is a higher death rate and it is 90 per cent more addictive compared with other drugs.
"Methamphetamine addiction is one of the most difficult to treat. The depression caused by methamphetamine withdrawal is longer and deeper than that from cocaine withdrawal.
"Addiction typically occurs when a person begins to use the drug as a stimulant, for its powerful enhancing effects on sex, mood, energy, alertness, and ability to concentrate.
"Over time, tolerance develops and users have greater difficulty functioning and experiencing pleasure," says Dr Mahmud.
As such, they have to take higher doses to experience the same effect.
Syabu addicts suffer from both physical and psychological effects.
Among the physical effects include anorexia, hypertension, blurred vision, dizziness, muscle twitches, insomnia, palpitations, tremors, acne, convulsions, heart attacks, stroke, and in some cases, death.
Psychological effects are euphoria, anxiety, increased libido, increased sociability, increased irritability, increased aggression, psychomotor agitation, hubris, excessive feelings of power and superiority, obsessive behaviours and paranoia.
Withdrawal symptoms include excessive sleeping and eating, depression, and sometimes anxiety and an immense craving for the drug.
"Many of the addicts I treat claim they see weird figures waiting outside their room or they feel that everyone in my clinic wants to harm them," says Dr Mahmud.
He says in extreme cases, some addicts commit murder or kill themselves due to their hallucinations.
Dr Mahmud treats synthetic drug addicts at his clinic in Muar. In most cases, the addicts were forced by their families to seek treatment.
Dr Mahmud explains that syabu addicts are not aware of their condition.
"They are always under the impression that they are healthy and do not require treatment. In the first few weeks, they undergo intensive detoxification and have to be placed in separate rooms. They generally turn aggressive as they have been forced to receive treatment.
"During detoxification, they feel irritable, suffer from hallucinations, paranoia and are unable to sleep or eat. Bupropion is given to reduce cravings together with anti-psychotic pills."
Dr Mahmud said patients usually stopped craving drugs after six to eight weeks. Hallucinations could be controlled after two weeks.
The course of treatment depends on the period of addiction and how the drug was taken. Those who use syringes need a longer time to recover than those who inhale.
"Addicts who complete the month-long intensive treatment will be able to function without the drug but they will still need to come back for treatments for psychoses."
Ketamine addicts are also being treated with bupropion, but they are not given anti-psychotic pills like syabu addicts.
Medical doctors at the centre would treat them for severe gastric pains and urinary bladder complications.
Dr Mahmud operates six outpatient clinics which provide treatment for both opiate and synthetic drug addiction. The clinics are located in Chow Kit, Selayang, Klang, Seremban, Melaka and Ipoh.
Those who want to know more about Pusat Rawatan Pakar Dr Mahmud can contact 06-9537939
New Straits Times
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Sun, Sep 27, 2009