A medical doctor addicted to drugs? As unlikely as it may sound, it does happen and one doctor here is now battling addiction – all because of job-related stress.
It all started nine years ago when Dr Sasitharan Ayanai, 39, a medical graduate from Russia, was doing his housemanship at a government hospital in Johor Baru.
Long work shifts – sometimes up to 48 hours without proper rest – led the Seremban-born doctor to experiment with methamphetamine to boost his energy levels.
"At that time, I was stressed (from work). I was introduced to methamphetamine and it was the booster I needed for long working hours," he said.
Dr Sasitharan, who is currently the in-house doctor of the Rumah Pengasih drug rehabilitation centre, said that he never thought he would become a drug addict.
"I thought that as a doctor, I would be able to keep it under control.
"I was wrong as the drugs got a hold of me and I became a hard-core addict," he told Bernama when met at Rumah Pengasih here.
Dr Sasitharan, realising that he was addicted and desiring a fresh start, voluntarily checked into Rumah Pengasih six years ago.
"However, I left Rumah Pengasih in 2017 because my father was ill. When I came out, it was difficult for me to adjust and within six months – coupled with depression after suffering relatives' insults – I relapsed.
"Two months ago, I returned here (Rumah Pengasih) because I realised I needed help and a support system. I am still undergoing treatment and observation to ensure I don't relapse again," he said.
He said when he was addicted, he often had angry outbursts and sudden mood changes – to the extent his marriage was called off just 20 days before it was to take place.
Pengasih president Ramli Abd Samad said the perception that drug addicts only comprise school dropouts and those from unfavourable social backgrounds is wrong
He said there are many addicts who are highly educated and professionally trained.
"Previously, drugs were used for recreational purposes – to enjoy and be high at night clubs.
"But now, many people are using it for work purposes, such as to boost confidence while giving presentations and so on.
"This is because some modern drugs also can boost concentration and energy," he said.
He added that anti-drug campaigns, which are meant to discourage people from experimenting with drugs, are outdated and no longer relevant to the current generation.
Right now, he said, Malaysia does not even have a helpline to offer support and advice for those who are trying to break free of addiction.
"For social problems such as depression and abuse, there are dedicated helplines – but for drug addicts, there is no support system.
"They (drug abusers) want to change but there is no strong support from family and society.
"The situation is getting complicated and drug users now are increasingly dangerous and violent. It is time for the country's support system to help drug addicts in a more serious manner," he said.