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He was only 15 when he was hooked on methamphetamine. The drug was supplied by a friend of a friend of a friend apparently to keep him awake so that he could stay up late and study for his PMR examination (Lower certificate of education). His problem started when he started smoking at the age of 11, being influenced by some boys in his housing area. To take methamphetamine you must first know how to smoke.

The boy, MM comes from an upper middle class family, both parents are professionals who concentrated on their high-pressure work and left him pretty much on his own. Going and coming home from school was a chauffeur affair. He had his own key and was highly independent.

When the parents finally discovered that MM was addicted to drug, it was rather late. He had severe signs of withdrawal and he could not sleep at nights. He would go out and return the next day looking like a zombie. He would sleep for hours during the day time and became active at nights, a classic sign of reverse sleeping pattern. He did not take care of himself and his skin was full of fungal infection. He spent a harrowing fortnight in a detox unit at a hospital only to relapse on triggers. Valuable things like his mother’s jewellery started to go missing from the house.

He was later sent to a private rehabilitation outfit for months before his examination and was home-tutored. He was able to sit for his examination after which he had several relapses alternating with intensive therapy and finally was sent by his parents to a prestigious private boarding school for his Form Four. Unfortunately he relapsed again and was expelled when drug was discovered in his locker. He moved to another private boarding school and just a couple of months before his SPM examination( Malaysian Certificate of Education) he was again expelled and eventually had to attend a private school near his house to ensure that he sit for the important examination.

During the time of tribulation he kept promising his parents that he would turn into a new leaf but for a drug addict, a promise has a high risk of being broken. His parents never gave up on him. He was given tutorials by several teachers. His SPM result was surprising. He achieved a high distinction for his English, strong credits for his maths and science subjects but miserably failed mugging subjects like history and barely passed his Malay language.

Somehow when he turned 19 he became a new person. He made up his mind to get rid of his drug addiction and concentrate on playing computer games all through the nights. He also discarded all his friends who were involved in doing drugs and made new friends who loved computer games. He developed a strong sense of friendship with Mandarin-speaking friends and by the age of 21 he was speaking the language like his mother tongue. He decided to take a few years off post SPM exam and at 22 he suddenly asked his father whether he could be sent to Australia to start a new life as a student and as a man. The father promptly agreed.

He had been drug-free for five years now and trying hard to catch up with his life. According to his mother he has been looking after himself well and has now gained weight and even has a steady girlfriend from the same university. He loved being in a completely new environment where he has to learn to cope himself. His first semester results were encouraging with a distinction in what else but computer programming. He has an ambition to be a successful businessman. And talking to him you would never have thought that this boy has gone through so much in his young life. He is an affable young man now with a penchant for Burberry collared T-shirts which do not come cheap. It is a far cry from the time when he couldn’t care less about life.

Cure for drug addiction is difficult as relapse plays a major role in pushing back the victim into the abyss of degradation and loved ones into abject despair . However about 20% is known to have cured on whatever method of rehabilitation used so this boy-man is in that fortunate group. When asked what really influenced him to abandon recreational drugs, he spoke of the horrendous sights of broken drug addicts losing their dignity in the private rehabilitation centre he was at and the sights had haunted him even in his dreams. He did not want that life. Though the process of getting out was painful for him as it was fraught with horrible relapses.

During a family trip to London he met his first boarding school friends who were pursuing an engineering and Economics degrees at Imperial college and London School of Economics (LSE) respectively and that made him rethink his potential and inspired him to return to studying.

He began as a promising pupil with 5 “A”s at primary school national examination but was brought down by mixing with the wrong company and was in a kind of suspended realm till after SPM. Credits must be given to his parents who never said enough was enough. They had spent so much money for his unusual rehabilitation programme supervised in parts by a Substance Abuse (Medical) Specialist. Finally MM has a deep insight into the evil of recreational drug addiction and his mother said he had jokingly promised to stop smoking after his PhD!

The only boy in a family of three born years apart, both his sisters are Chartered Accountants and it is not difficult to see that he has great family support in his journey out of drug addiction and ahead towards self-redemption.

I believe in MM’s case the addictive euphoria he got from doing drug was replaced by the acute addictive joy of playing computer games. He played the games so much that he forgot about doing drugs and having like-minded friends help as well. As the effects of methamphetamine wore off, the brain began to normalise towards another stimulant in the forms of creative games developed by highly intelligent creators. He played team games online against global competitors and it could go on for days. Apparently he has stopped now to focus on his studies overseas.

For those who have a similar drug addiction problem in the family, do not give up easily as the road for cure is there and one needs to keep on trying. It is crucial that the affected person has an insight into his addiction problem as this will motivate him/her to stop using drugs. Reading experiences of others might be helpful as well.

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