Aid for drug addicts is 'not up to scratch'
Published: 19/04/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

More compulsory drug treatment and rehab programmes are needed as up to 900,000 Thais across the country are addicted to illicit drugs, says a senior official at the Office of the Narcotics Control Board.

ONCB adviser Pittaya Jinawat yesterday cited a recent survey by the ONCB which showed there were about 800,000-900,000 drug users nationwide. However, the existing compulsory drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes could treat only one-sixth of the addicts, driving the remaining drug users to become small-scale dealers, Mr Pittaya said.

To solve the drug problem, anti-narcotics agencies must get more drug users into treatment and rehabilitation programmes, the ONCB adviser said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva plans to hold a meeting of drug suppression agencies to review the government's policies on countering narcotics use, Mr Pittaya said.

The prime minister's move followed Thursday's shooting spree and hostage drama in Bangkok in which a man with a history of drug use went on a killing rampage before being shot dead by the police.

Suppression alone would not solve the drug problem as harsher punishments imposed on traffickers did not scare them as they believed the chances of them getting caught were less than 40%, Mr Pittaya said.

It was necessary for the government to give people a more participatory role in drug prevention.

People should be made aware that illicit drugs posed a serious threat to their lives.

He was worried about the rampant use of crystal methamphetamine, known as "ya ice" among new drug users, particularly teenage girls who thought that taking the ice drug would help them lose weight and whiten their skin. This had led to a sharp increase in the number of young addicts, he said.

Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanavisit yesterday said the number of drug addicts undergoing treatment at rehabilitation centres run by the ministry was increasing every year.

Last year, the number of drug addicts seeking treatment surged by 5,000 from the previous year, Mr Jurin said. The number of addicts undergoing rehabilitation treatment during the past four months rose by 3,000 from the same period last year.

Bangkok and its surrounding provinces have the highest number of addicts undergoing rehab, or 40% of those joining treatment programmes. Most, or 85%, were found to have been addicted to speed pills, the minister said.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) secretary-general Pipat Yingseree yesterday said the FDA planned to limit the sale of the cough medicine ingredient pseudoephedrine, which is used to make illicit drugs.

The announcement would mean that drug firms could sell pharmacies no more than 5,000 tablets of pseudoephedrine a month, Mr Pipat said.

Meanwhile, police seized 82,000 speed pills and some ice from a Toyota Vigo pickup truck in Ubon Ratchathani province yesterday morning.

The driver and the others travelling in the pickup truck managed to flee when police gave chase to them on the Khemarat-Amnat Charoen route in Khemarat district at about 5am.

Police found 82,000 speed pills in 42 packs and one pack of ice weighing 3 grammes hidden inside the vehicle.

Pol Col Chaiwat Hatkla, chief of Khemarat police, said at least four people were involved in smuggling the illicit drugs in two vehicles.

He said police knew the identity of two of the suspects and would seek court approval to issue warrants for their arrest.