Nothing matters but the ‘high’

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    Nothing matters but the ‘high’

    PETALING JAYA: “Drug rehabilitation centres today are more like psychiatric institutions,” lamented social worker Wendy Yap, referring to the inmates suffering from brain damage after consuming party drugs for years.

    “It is really heart-wrenching to see these young persons, many of them still teenagers, destroying their own lives due to curiosity and ignorance just to have doses of ‘high’ moments. Once they are there, they make everyone hate them and live the rest of their lives like zombies,” she said.

    We were at the Revitalise Rehabilitation Centre in Cheras. Sitting next to us was Andy, a fair-skinned man in his early 30s, and two new inmates, William and Jacky, being treated for their party drug addiction. (Names of inmates have been changed)

    The mindless remarks and behaviour of Andy caused by his severe addiction had made him the laughing stock of the young inm

    “I used to work for (former prime ministers) (Tun Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad) and Pak Lah (Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi). They knew me and my family very well,” he always said, occasionally flashing his naive smile but pulled a long face when others doubted his words.

    When asked if had to take 30 showers a day at times, he answered, to the muffled chuckles of the other two inmates, “Ya, taking a shower is good, it’s so hot.”

    When asked about his parents, he looked sad, saying they had passed away and now “living peacefully” in Ipoh.

    Asked how many pills he used to take, he said: “10.... sometimes 60...”

    Over the past few years, almost 80% of the newly admitted inmates of the centre were users of party drugs, said officer-in-charge Yeap Cheng Wah, adding that many of them left before completing the programme. “We had more than 50 users approaching us over the past five years but only 10 completed the programme.”

    “More than 20 users with psychotic symptoms had been with us; now, there are eight at the centre, mostly in their 20s and many disowned by their families,” he said, adding that a high runaway rate was also recorded at other rehabilitation centres.

    “It is very difficult to rehabilitate them. One of the reason is that they are very young with many of them from well-to-do families. The trend makes us helpless as it is so hard to bring them back and on the other hand the drugs are spreading to the younger groups like wildfire,” he said. Jacky, who has been there for five months, seemed more determined to end his addiction but William, who still has a heavy chain around his ankle, appeared indifferent.

    “I have lost some people who really loved me. I know I have to get rid of it and am thankful that my parents have given me a chance despite the bad things I did to them,” said Jacky, a 21-year-old air-conditioner technician from Selangor who appeared cheerful and sprightly.

    He said he took ketamine, which gave him a “stone” and “out of this world” effect to forget some unhappy experiences but that only pushed him deeper into agony.

    “It was easily available, not at entertainment outlets because they are closely watched but the runners are only a phone call away and they will send it to me no matter where I am,” he said, adding that he could consume half a set of ketamine (2g), costing RM50 to RM70, within an hour.

    William, 30, said he was tempted to try Ice as all his friends took it.

    “I did not touch it for about four years even though all my friends had it but I gave in eventually,” said the renovation worker from Pahang who was sent to the centre by his parents.

    “A few months back, Ice was selling at RM1,800 for 5g and that usually lasted me two weeks. It kept me bold and awake. Once I could not sleep for up to eight days!

    Heroin? That’s outdated!” he exclaimed.

    Their cases are relatively light compared to the two “longest-staying” party drug users at Life Zone Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Petaling Jaya.

    Andrew and Peter (not their real names), aged 31 and 26, respectively, have been there for more than six months now.

    Andrew was unperturbed even when he witnessed about 10 of his friends, high on Ice, violently and aggressively attempting to rob a shop but the acute pain from urinary problems after three years of consumption finally frightened him.

    “Besides the gastric pain, I had to rush to the toilet every five minutes and it was excruciatingly painful whenever I tried tourinate,” he said, adding that despite that he still spent at least RM150 daily for a set of ketamine, exhausting all the earnings from his car wash business and landing him in debt with many suppliers.

    Peter (name has been changed), who worked as a storekeeper, even resorted to borrowing money from loan sharks to have his fix. He owed a whopping RM50,000 in the end, which his parents paid.

    “A friend in the drug group actually died jumping off a building. That shocked us but a day later, we were high on drugs again. The debt did make me anxious but the more worried I was, the more I took,” he said, adding that he decided to take his parents’ advice when gastric and urinary problems surfaced a year after regular drug usage and when a doctor told him his brain would be damaged if he continued.

    The person in charge at Life Zone also noticed that almost 80% of newcomers in recent years were abusers of party drugs. The rest being repeat users of conventional drugs.

    “Every month, we have parents sending their children here for rehabilitation but we do not take them in until the users themselves want to repent,” said trainer David Taig.

    Over the last two years, the centre took in more than 10 youngsters, all but two escaped.

    “They are young and think they are having a good life with their parents’ support, so they do not have the determination to stay on despite feeling the pain,” he said.

    The operators of these centres which use only religious teachings to convince drug abusers feel that there is a need to set up another outlet specifically for party drug addicts, who need medication. More manpower is also needed for monitoring purposes.

    Another trainer of Life Zone, Paul Kh’ng, said that party drugs had led to an increase in crime.

    “Son chopping his mother, robbers smashing their way into banks with bulldozers ... all these match the behaviour of people high on Ice,” he noted.

    He also had two friends — one of them to be admitted into the centre in a matter of days — jumping off from buildings due to paranoia and hallucination caused by Ice.

    “Social and church workers always discuss about these issues; we seriously feel that there is a need to educate children about these drugs in primary school and rehabilitation centres be vested with powers to detain the users for treatment with the permission of their parents,” he said.

    These private drug rehabilitation centres appreciate support from society.

    Tuesday November 24, 2009

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