WHEN approaching a former drug addict, what do you do? Do you shame him for his past? Do you grab your child away from him due to your fears of negative influences?
Chances are you are a bad person.
Most former addicts have turned over a new leaf, yet a few bad apples have led to most people into stereotyping former addicts as permanently negative elements.
People who have never had to deal with addiction of any kind may have developed this stigma from what they have seen on television or in the movies.
It may be the fact that the press seems to emphasise more on the negativity because of the crimes committed by people with drug addictions.
Addictions can cause people to act in a way that they would not have ever thought of before they were ill, but this does not necessarily mean that all addicts are bad.
Society itself is at fault for stereotyping former drug addicts and associating them with unemployment and homelessness, and with school dropouts, criminals, or prostitutes
The existence of such negativity has led to further isolation of the latter, and it is no huge surprise to hear that many people who are affected are unable to fully adapt to their new and sober life.
Moreover, it is harder for these individuals to even start new lives with a criminal record that put off employers. The social stratification in Malaysia is in effect as these sober individuals are hindered from progressing by society itself.
Living as outcasts, it is a reality that most former addicts endure, and most turn back to drugs as a way to tackle their loneliness. It is a never-ending cycle for some as they relapse and have to go into rehab over and over again.
You might be wondering, how about rehabilitation programs? Are they not suppose to help?
A study conducted by Norazleen Binti Mohamad Noor, a faculty member of University Putra Malaysia in the field of journalism, concerning the well-being of former addicts in 2017 found that the rehabilitation programme they attended had not been effective.
Some former addicts in the study reported that they had not been well-informed about any post-rehabilitation programme after their release from prison.
Individuals who still have families or friends are luckier than those who don’t in this context. Mental and physical healing without help have dire consequences if one is not given support.
Suicides or drugs are the two remaining options most likely to be on their minds once their rehabilitations are hindered.
In cases whereby individuals are sent into rehabilitation institutions, a common ground is achieved as everyone is a former addict.
Former drug addict and founder of PENGASIH, Ramli Samad, in a recent statement, said, “When they are around other recovered addicts, they feel hopeful. They see it can be done, and that there is a way out for them.”
His essence of success in helping his peers is by building a foundation run by former addicts that relies on a system of supporting and rebuilding the self-esteem of residents rather than treating them as broken.
Conclusively, former addicts suffer a whole lot more than usual convicts on their road to recovery.
Therefore, our society plays an important role in eradicating all these bad perceptions about former drug addicts, and helping those in need of our help to heal.
The first step is always to accept who they are, including their past. -TVS
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