PETALING JAYA: It all started with sniffing glue at 13 for Ali, who would later go on to experiment with drugs.
“I started experimenting with other drugs out of curiosity. It was also an escape from family problems when I was younger,” said the now 24-year-old, who also had friends in school who were into substance abuse.
His run-ins with the law resulted in him being placed in a juvenile detention centre, and this led to him turning over a new leaf.
Ali began to focus on his studies and eventually enrolled in skills development training.
“It took away some years of my youth. I would not have gone down that path if I had another go,” he said in an interview.
Ali is not alone. A recent survey by the Health Ministry found that three in four adolescents in Malaysia had tried out drugs by the age of 14.
According to its National Health and Morbidity Survey 2022, a total of 106,000 adolescents in Malaysia used drugs at least once while 60,000 were using drugs at the time of the survey.
Of this, 2.8% used inhalants such as glue or paint, 2.3% (kratom or ketum), 1.1% (marijuana) while 1% used amphetamine or methamphetamine.
On how the drugs were sourced, the report said 38.4% of the respondents bought it directly from someone, while 23.1% gave money for others to get it for them.
Some 14.9% said they stole it while 13.9% got it from friends, while 9.7% used other means.
The survey, conducted from June 12 to July 8, 2022, involved students aged between 13 and 17 from 239 schools.
According to National Anti-Drug Agency statistics on drug abuse, from the period beginning January to September 2022, there were 1,589 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 who were drug users, with three children under the age of 12.
In 2021, the agency’s statistics showed there were 1,961 teenagers in the 13-18 age bracket who were drug users.
Malaysian Substance Abuse Council secretary-general Raja Azizan Suhaimi said there were different factors why adolescents get into substance abuse and these included family or social problems.
He said they might see it as the easiest and fastest route to escape from various pressures and challenges of life.
Also, they could have mixed with the wrong group of friends, which led to peer pressure into using drugs.
Raja Azizan said this might have sparked their curiosity into trying substances that could bring them temporary joy and excitement, and ended up getting hooked.
“The problem can also be because teenagers are so Internet-savvy that they are able to easily meet and buy drugs from just about anyone,” he added.
Raja Azizan said drugs were being sold at a cheaper rate these days, so some teens might buy them in larger quantities to split among friends.
He said this practice could lead some of these adolescents to drug dealing. - By Ragananthini Vethasalam, The Star