Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Asia



                        Extent of Drug Abuse

By October 1991, there were a reported 16,186 registered drug abusers in Malaysia. Of these, 79.2 per cent were heroin abusers, 9.9 per cent cannabis (marijuana or ganja) abusers and 5.7 per cent morphine abusers while 5.3 per cent were abusers of other drugs (Malaysia 1992).

            In 1991, a reported 7,790 new drug abusers were identified, in 1992 the figure was 7,750 (Singh, S. 1993). During 1970 to 1990, out of the total 153,000 identified drug abusers, 75 per cent abused heroin (Karim, Dr. R. 1992).

                       Abuser Characteristics

Out of the total drug abusers identified over the period 1978-1986, 22 per cent were females (Commonwealth 1990).

            Most drug abusers (75 per cent) are between 15 and 30 years old, especially in the 25-29 age group. The main reported cause for involvement in drug abuse was peer influence (50.2 per cent) and seeking pleasure (14.4 per cent). About 40 per cent of the abusers were manual workers and 27 per cent were unemployed. Thirty five per cent of the drug dependent abusers had attended at least lower secondary school, 31 per cent upper secondary school and 1.4 per cent college or university (Singh, S. 1993).

                         Regional Variations

Most of the heroin abusers are reported from urban areas, while cannabis is more commonly abused in the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia (U.N. 1990).


Some decrease in heroin abuse and some increase in cannabis abuse was reported for 1990 (U.N. 1990).

                             Mode of intake

Cannabis is mainly taken by mouth. Heroin is mostly abused by "chasing the dragon", but is also smoked, injected or sniffed (U.N. 1990).


As Malaysia is a net importer of drugs, valuable foreign exchange resources are being used to purchase drugs (Malaysia 1993).

            By the middle of 1990, 13 AIDS cases were reported from Malaysia (ESCAP 1991).


                           National Strategy

Five laws which are considered stringent and deterrent are used to curb the activities of drug traffickers, abusers and other offenders (Quest 1993).

            As prevention of drug abuse is part of the demand reduction strategy, an overall drug abuse prevention strategy was created in 1983 and reviewed in 1984. The Anti Narcotics Task Force was set up to assist the National Anti Drug Committee (Malaysia 1993; Singh, S. 1993).


                           Treaty adherence

Malaysia is Party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol, 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.


                          Primary Prevention

Primary prevention is divided into three fields of activity: preventive education, information and community action. These are aimed to encourage youth to resist drugs, change the perception of society towards drugs by highlighting the problem, provide meaningful alternatives to young people, create abhorrence for drugs, and involve the community in preventive efforts (Malaysia 1993).

            Several preventive programmes are reported like Anti Drug Quizes for students, Mobile Drug Abuse Prevention Units (3 fully equipped mobile units which visit schools, workplaces etc.) and urine screening programme in schools (U.N. 1990).

                 Treatment and Rehabilitation

Treatment of confirmed drug addicts is mandatory and is provided through centres set up by the Government and voluntary organizations. The following aims of treatment were found to contribute significantly to the programme's success: 1. Restricted life; 2. Physical training; 3. Work therapy; 4. Religious teaching; 5. Counselling; 6. Recreation; and 7. Vocational training (U.N. 1990; Quest 1993).

            In 1990, 28,605 drug addicts received treatment and rehabilitation services, including 23,158 for the first time. The average rate of recidivism was reported as 26.2 per cent for cannabis abusers and 44.6 per cent for opiate abusers. To enhance social reintegration programmes, 36 aftercare centres have been established since 1988 (U.N. 1990; Quest 1993).


      Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

In 1990, a reported 10,996 persons were arrested for drug related offences (10,183 for possession or abuse and 813 for trafficking). Out of the 10,987 who were convicted, 10,180 were for possession or abuse (9,850 males and 330 females) and 807 were for trafficking (756 males and 51 females) (U.N. 1990).


In 1990, 189.11 kg and in 1991, 263.92 kg of heroin were seized. The seizures of opium amounted to 673.03 kg in 1990 and 85.63 kg in 1991 (U.N. 1990; Other 1991).

            Annual cannabis herb seizures were 1.4 tonnes in 1987, 1.5 tonnes in 1988, more than 1.8 tonnes in 1989, 1.1 tonnes in 1990 and 0.8 tonnes in 1991. The drugs came mainly from Thailand and was destined for local consumption and for transit to neighbouring countries (ESCAP 1991; U.N. 1990; Other 1991).

                      Supply Source of Drugs

Although opium is reported not cultivated in Malaysia, there is some processing activity as evidenced from the discovery of a number of illegal laboratories (Malaysia 1993).

            Malaysia has long been used by drug traffickers as a transit country along the drug route from the Golden Triangle. In the process of their transit into and out of Malaysia, some of the narcotics have found their way into the Malaysian community (Singh, S. 1993).

            It is reported that Nigerian smugglers posed as tourists and businessmen travel from Bangkok through Malaysia/Thai border by train and buses. The drugs are concealed in body cavities and false bottom metal trunks filled with expensive ceramic wares and ornaments. Local traffickers obtain drugs from border towns in Southern Thailand and usually use jungle tracks and rivers along the border (U.N. 1990).


                       References and Notes

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years .... (not available by January 15th 1994).

U.N. 1990. Reply to the UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the year 1990.

ESCAP 1991. The Drug Abuse Demand Situation in Asia and the Pacific. ESCAP. Proceedings of the Meeting of Senior Officials on Drug Abuse Issues in Asia and the Pacific. Tokyo, 13-15 February 1991.

Quest 1993. Article from Quest, February 1993.

Malaysia 1992. Malaysian National Statistics, 1992.

Malaysia 1993. Plan for Strengthening the Regional Network of National Focal Points on Drug Abuse Demand Reduction: Malaysian Proposal. Senior Officials Meeting on the Strengthening of Regional Network of National Focal Points on Drug Abuse Demand Reduction. Bangkok, Thailand, 1-4 February 1993.

Karim, Dr. R. 1992. Role of the Family in Drug Abuse Prevention and Control - Different Perspectives. Dr. Raj Karim, Director General, National Population and Family Development Board. Report for the 14th Meeting of the International Federation of Non-Government Organization (IFNGO) for the Prevention of Drug and Substance Abuse. Crown Princess, Kuala Lumpur. 7-11 December 1992.

Singh, S. 1993. Workshop on National Focal Points on Drug Abuse Demand Reduction: Golden Triangle Countries. ESCAP. Saudagar Singh, Head, Primary Prevention Division, Anti Narcotics Task Force, Malaysia. Bangkok, Thailand. 9-13 August 1993.

Commonwealth 1990. Women, the Family and Drugs: Report of a Regional Workshop, Commonwealth Secretariat. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 18-22 June 1990.

Other 1991. Obtained from one or more seizure reports provided by Government or from other official sources for the year 1991.