There was an article published in today’s New Sunday Times with the rather eye-catching headline, “Village hit badly by glue sniffing”. In essence, the article proclaimed that glue sniffing was particularly prevalent in coastal villages particularly those in Kuantan, Pekan and Rompin.
The first thing to note is that glue sniffing is not merely prevalent in “coastal villages”. This issue is a common one irrespective of whether one is from a kampung or from a city.
Consider the evidence:
- 10.05.2007 – Glue sniffing children reported in Miri, they were 9 and 6
- 28.06.2007 – Three children from CHERAS die from glue sniffing
- 17.12.2007 – Glue sniffers turning to chicken droppings as substitute in Sarawak
- 20.06.2008 – Rampant glue sniffing amongst youth and students in Sg. Petani, Kedah
- 09.12.2008 – Rural youths turning to glue sniffing
Quite clearly, “glue sniffing” addicts can be found anywhere and its prevalence has got absolutely nothing to do with geography. No doubt geography may be, to put it politely, a simpler way to attempt to grapple with the problem but it is not borne out by the evidence. Exhibit One, Your Honour – glue is not a controlled item in Malaysia. It is a household item. So, anyone, anywhere can purchase glue.
Now that we have established that proposition, it may be tempting, be extension, to consider that since glue can be purchased anywhere, it makes sense to ban or limit the substance. In fact, the National Drug Agency seemed to think so and not too long ago proposed that glue (even petrol, which is often used as a substitute for glue by glue sniffing addicts) be “made illegal“. Curiously, this proposal also found favour with Pemadam, the National Association for Prevention of Drug Abuse.
Curious because the second thing which needs to be kept in mind, glue sniffing is not addictive because there is some quality or feature unique to glue. Glue sniffing is addictive because it contains solvents. Such solvents can be found in a number of typical household items such as turpentine, gasoline, paints, correction fluids (e.g. Liquid Paper), nail polish removers and even permanent markers.1 Clearly, it would be almost impossible – at least in the short term – to ban each and every item which contains such solvents. Nevertheless, all is not doom and gloom.
The fact is it is still possible to look for remedial measures as there are common denominators amongst those who do commit solvent abuse. It is these denominators which the authorities need to focus for there to be any meaningful effort to address this social ill.
Noteworthy amongst these is the fact that solvent abuse generally occurs when the individual feels isolated or is isolated from his/her family or community. (One does wonder, rather mischeviously, what liberal philosophers would say to in defence of their atomized individual in the face of such an indictment.)
That aside, there is also the fact that solvent abuse is generally commited by a specific class or group of people i.e. the young, the criminal and the indigent but more commonly amongst adolescents.2
So, as one can see, the class of people affected by this problem is that much larger than just being a “village people” problem and when we are drawing up our list of solutions, it pays not to get stuck, pun unintended, on the trivial and the superficial.
Tags: substance abuse
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