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Drug treatment ‘more than doubled’ in 2018

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People wait outside the methadone clinic at Phnom Penh’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in 2016. Eliah Lillis

Drug treatment ‘more than doubled’ in 2018

The number of drug addicts receiving treatment at health centres across the Kingdom this year has more than doubled compared to the same period last year, a Ministry of Health official has said.

Some 3,000 addicts received treatment in the first 10 months of this year compared to more than 1,000 last year, an increase of 120 per cent said Or Vandine, the director-general of the Ministry of Health’s Technical General Department.

Health and anti-drug officials with relevant partners launched a campaign during the Water Festival last week, under the theme Together for community-based drug treatment, to educate people as to the negative effects of drugs and the importance of treatment.

“The increase in people getting treatment came after we expanded the service. Now it has increased to 3,000 [addicts], while last year there were more than 1,000, so it has increased by 120 per cent,” Vandine said at the campaign.

The drug treatment report for the first six months of this year said 3,231 drug users, 3,108 of whom were addicted to methamphetamine and 123 to heroin, received treatment. Of the number, 3,019 were men and 212 women. Over the same period last year, 1,596 people received treatment.

Vandine said that treatment is complicated and to have effective treatment requires relevant stakeholders to work together with anti-drug authorities, the Ministry of Health, law enforcement institutions and NGOs, along with families and the wider community.

If drug users were serious about receiving successful treatment, they must see a doctor 20 times a year and strictly adhere to the prescribed regimen, she said.

“It is very difficult for drug addicts because most of them do not pay much attention [to their treatment]. They come just a few times and then stop, so they relapse and it makes them even more addicted."

“If they don’t come for treatment . . . one day they will commit a crime because drugs are a problem related to mental [functions and health]. When addicted, they will not be able to control themselves and may attack or kill father or mother to get money to buy drugs to use,” she said.

Vandine told The Post that there are 430 health centres in Cambodia providing mental healthcare and drug rehabilitation.

Meas Vyrith, the secretary-general of the Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), told The Post that the heads of health centres, the police and relevant authorities are finding drug addicts across communes to send to rehabilitation.

“Each health centre is open for volunteers who want to receive treatment. Now we have created the process in communes in which the initial phase is finding drugs addicts and informing parents or guardians and family members, or drug addicts themselves to come in to receive treatment,” he said.

“This is a highly efficient service because the rehabilitation treatment is offered by doctors who have received good training and are capable in providing treatment. We can identify the drugs that addicts have been using. Plus we have medical treatment for the duration of the rehabilitation period,” Vyrith said.

He added that the government’s strategy for combating drugs encouraged relevant organisations, ministries and institutions to find solutions to eliminate the selling and use of drugs, and offer education to drug addicts at health centres, to strengthen the capacity of existing health centres while new ones are built.

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