Aida Zabidi
The recent overdose of the teenagers at the Future Music Festival Asia, resulting in 6 deaths and another 14 admitted to hospital brought to the forefront a whole can of worms. 

The drug culture rises and ebbs with the times, but it has always something that has been part of the scene, something that started off as a seedy practice in back alleys and slowly became glamourized, and it almost seemed as if there was increased ease at obtaining drugs. Perhaps it was the media, or perhaps it was just the people I had met, both in my personal life and in my line of work, but it had brought me into a whole new world that I had no idea about before. 

It is disheartening to see the public condemnation of the individuals who were affected, and even more so by those who are spreading pictures of those deceased as a so-called ‘lesson’ to others, instead of respecting the dead – whom the majority seem to have come from middle class conservative families, whose families are already dealing with their personal losses of their sons and daughters. Let the dead rest, and put your petty vindications aside. 

There are an estimated 35000 drug addicts in Malaysia, of which 20000 are registered. This is a conservative estimate. The drug culture in Malaysia is fairly significant, and there needs to be an understanding of the nature of drug addiction. 

It is easy to condemn without understanding that many of those who use are victims of a vicious cycle. Addiction is a disease, and one that needs the support of those surrounding them to overcome this addiction. It’s a condition where the brain of the addict does not realize he is no longer under rational influence, and will continue to crave. 

Although the number of addicts have plateaued, there still is a long way to go to ensure that this problem is tackled – through the understanding of drug culture and reduction of stigma, through the decriminalization of drugs and through policies that hit the dealers, not the addicts. 

Victim blaming is not the answer – and neither is the callous disregard of those who are in need of help. There needs to be open discussion about safe drug taking, a practice that is sorely needed in harm reduction. I am not advocating illicit drugs, but there are those who choose to take drugs, and it is folly to ignore the issue completely and let people proceed blindly into this. 

Some drug takers I knew had certain rules they followed – never to take drugs alone, never to take it when you were particularly emotional, and never to associate it with your partner, which were all safe clauses to reduce potential harm. 

There is so much stigma attached to drugs compared to alcohol that this education is severely lacking – while everyone knows not to drink and drive, or not to accept drinks from strangers, people seem to see it as acceptable behaviour regarding drugs. 

I hope the families of those who passed away from the tragedy are left in peace, and that those hospitalized recover well. We all have lessons to learn from this event.
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