By Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar
A disciplinary teacher was recently accused of slapping a student for allegedly sniffing glue. The teacher was later given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.
This incident is a telltale sign that the problem of drug addiction among schoolchildren is escalating at an alarming rate.
According to recent statistics on drug abuse in Malaysia, it is estimated that the number of addicts will reach three million by 2020.
Equally disturbing is the fact that younger and younger minors are becoming involved. Children as young as below 13 years of age were making headlines in drug abuse cases reported from 2015 onwards.
In August this year, we were shocked to hear news of two youths who fell from an eight-storey building after sniffing glue on the roof of Kompleks Api Api, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. One of them died due to serious head injuries.
The Society for Education of Underprivileged Children in Sabah (PKPKM Sabah) reported that children as young as three to four years old are sniffing glue, which is widely available at shops.
Inhalant abuse such as glue sniffing is not a criminal offence in Malaysia. Easy access and affordability where glue can be obtained for as little as RM3 has contributed to the high number of youngsters engaging in glue sniffing.
This is compounded by the fact that parents may not be aware of the health implications and long-term effects of glue sniffing, especially if children are exposed to it at a very young age.
The long-term effects of glue sniffing include memory loss, addiction and brain degeneration. Children addicted to glue sniffing also display violent behaviour and are prone to bullying.
Glue sniffing is part of inhalants which, unfortunately, are not included under the Dangerous Drugs Act. The lack of legislation has left the authorities unable to make arrests. Likewise, there have been few prevention campaigns against glue sniffing.
A study by the Faculty of Education at University Teknologi Mara revealed that more than 30% of students felt that their parents did not view glue sniffing, consuming alcohol or smoking as an offence. This is something which is very worrying.
Studies have shown that sniffing glue, regarded as child’s play, is a gateway drug before they move on to the “real” thing.
I-Medik urges the government to emulate Singapore and Thailand to ban glue sniffing. An Intoxicating Substance Act should be put in place to prohibit the misuse of certain substances which may cause intoxication when inhaled.
As for parents, close monitoring of our children is of utmost importance. Do check out what is in their possession, and with whom they’re mingling. Give full cooperation to schools and teachers, working hand-in-hand to curb drug abuse among children.
Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar is an associate professor and president of I-Medik.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.