President of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) Ke Kim Yan has instructed officials at all levels to focus on getting the Kingdom’s 18,000 drug addicts into treatment at rehabilitation and health centres nationwide.
Last year, the number of drug addicts across Cambodia seeking treatment grew by almost 70 per cent, a Ministry of Health report states.
According to the report, 13,161 drug addicts (an increase of 71 per cent) accessed treatment at temporary centres, while a further 5,396 (a 29 per cent increase) received treatment from public health services.
“Drugs are finding new users and their use is escalating, but addicts [who are yet to be rehabilitated] still figure in our statistics."
“Attention should be put on rehabilitation to make sure [numbers] do not increase,” Kim Yan said at a meeting at the Ministry of Health on Thursday.
On a positive note, he said drug crimes had declined by two per cent and the number of suspects arrested in connection with drug trafficking had declined by 10 per cent.
However, the amount of drugs trafficked in Cambodia had increased threefold, from 173kg in 2017 to 536.36kg last year.
Kim Yan said the increase in trafficked drugs triggered the number of users, and that required attention to tackle the problem.
Rehabilitation and health centres should be improved, he said, especially in Phnom Penh and Banteay Meanchey province, and other tourist areas such as Preah Sihanouk province, which is experiencing a dramatic increase in drug use.
Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng said the ministry reports annually on the number of drug addicts receiving treatment and every year has seen an increase – especially last year, when the number of addicts increased by 70 per cent compared to 2017.
Treatment was sought at over 400 public hospitals last year, he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Referral Hospital head Ngy Mean Heng, who represents 10 health centres, told The Post on Thursday that treating addicts, in order to prevent them from relapsing, was the correct approach.
However, he said the most important factor was the attitude of the addicts themselves.
“Rehabilitation centres and the Ministry of Health and relevant parties make efforts to educate them, but their commitment is the most important thing because if they don’t have commitment, they will return to the previous stage,” he said.
The World Health Organisation’s Nargiza Khodjaeva said the principles behind treating drug addicts were clear.
It is necessary for all relevant parties to adhere to standards, she said. Law enforcement, court officials and prison officials should be trained in effective treatment and rehabilitation methods, and addicts should receive further attention after their release.
“In order to prevent the problem worsening, rehabilitation centres and health services at provincial and municipal levels nationwide should continue to provide medical and psychological treatment, long-term care, and rehabilitation to enable a return to work,” she said.