Caution needed in enacting anti-drug strategies

I congratulate the Malay community for its anti-drug initiatives and for helping former drug users gain effective control of their lives (Malay groups roll out programmes to give help; April 16).

However, caution needs to be exercised when getting "young people" to be role models for their peers. Young people may lack the knowledge and skills to keep their peers out of drugs. Those who stay off drugs probably have more stable domestic backgrounds, which lend themselves to a healthy psychosocial state.

It may be too challenging to have them "help" their drug-inclined peers and could cause unexpected harm to both parties.

Parents with drug-inclined children may need to improve their parenting skills if they are to relate well to them and influence them to pick up healthier habits.

We need to stop using easy access to drugs as an excuse for the worsening situation. Drug lords will always find ways to make drugs available.

The key strategy needs to be education and awareness.

The Association of Muslim Professionals' programmes are commendable, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

It is too early to tell if the programmes are effective. We need to follow the beneficiaries for at least five to 10 years, as relapses can still happen after a long period.

Programmes designed by non-drug users, with no input from users, may not be fully beneficial. For example, former users are fearful, have little confidence in abstaining from drugs and worry about stigma. Have the programmes taken these issues into account?

There should be different treatment models for those who are just experimenting with drugs, those who are becoming addicted, and those who are chronic users, keeping in mind the differences in psychosocial and socioeconomic backgrounds of the various groups.

There is no one-size-fits-all method.

Kuharajahsingam Karalasingam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Caution needed in enacting anti-drug strategies'. Print Edition | Subscribe