Seven-year-olds should be meeting new friends in Standard 1, playing Batu Seremban, or watching kid-safe cartoons… NOT doing drugs. Right?But not these 2 boys, who have been dubbed Malaysia’s youngest drug addicts. 

The Malay Mail Online reported that the boys from Papar and Keningau in Sabah became hooked on GLUE SNIFFING after they were encouraged to try it by some older kids.

This went on for a few months before their parents found out and sent them to the National Anti-Drugs Agency (AADK) cure and care centre in 2013 and 2014 respectively, according to AADK Director-General Datuk Suhaimi Abdullah. After 3 months of counselling, the boys could go back to school, but are still being monitored.

The story captured our interest since we wrote an article once on a real-life Breaking Bad family in Kuantan.

How widespread is drug use among Malaysian kids? The Education Director-General Datuk Seri Dr. Khair Mohamad Yusof revealed the shocking official numbers: 1,416 out of 48,000 students tested positive for drugs during checks. That means for like every 33 kids out there, at least 1 of them uses drugs!!

Plus, how about children who live in poverty, who don’t go to school and slip under the radar? Doesn’t that worry you guys, especially if you are parents?

But it’s just glue. What’s the harm?

“Many people hold the perception that glue sniffing is not dangerous compared to other drugs,” said Datuk Suhaimi.

They are WRONG!!!

“In fact, glue sniffing is more dangerous than heroin and ganja. It cuts off oxygen to your brainIt can just blow up your brain and kill every single brain cell.” – Datuk Suhaimi Abdullah, AADK Director-General, The Malay Mail Online

So what happens to your body when you sniff glue?

THE EXPLANATION: People who sniff glue are breathing in fumes from the solvents found in glue. It is absorbed through the lungs, enter the bloodstream, and then distributed to the brain and other organs.

WHAT YOU FEEL: It gives you a rapid high like alcohol intoxication. There is initial excitement followed by drowsiness, disinhibition, lightheadedness and agitation. If you inhale enough, it produces anaesthesia and unconsciousn–………zzzzzzzzzzz

WHAT YOUR PARENTS WILL FEEL: Rage. A LOT of it.

mickey mouse inhaling fumes. Image from Dinner a love story.

 

BUT these are the horrible, horrible medical effects

  • Asphyxiation: Because the high concentration of fumes replaces oxygen in your lungs.
  • Suffocation: Because air is block out when you hold the plastic bag of glue over your head.
  • Convulsions or seizures: From abnormal electrical discharges in the brain.
  • Coma: Your brain shut down all but the most vital functions.
  • Choking: From inhalation your own vomit after inhalant use.
  • Fatal injury: From accidents suffered while intoxicated (e.g. falling down the stairs). So use it at the bottom of the stairs…? No, don’t use it at all.

WORSE still, inhalants can die of Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome (SSDS)! This is NOT an urban legend, we promise. SSDS is heart failure resulting from an irregular heartbeat usually caused by stress or strenuous activity after sniffing glue. Even sudden shock (like if a child gets caught) can result in collapse and death.

Another saddening fact is that glue sniffing is a worldwide problem – children from Phnom Penh, Nepal, Myanmar, Mexico, Kenya, Eastern Europe and basically all over the globe are victims to this scary addiction. If anything, it’s an extremely worrying global issue that we seem not to be able to overcome.

Oh no, what else are kids sniffing?!

Image from CBS News

If kids are sniffing glue, surely there are OTHER things they can sniff to get high. Some other examples of home made ‘drugs’ include more than 1,000 types of common household products. The most used stuff besides glue are shoe polish, petrol, lighter fluid, paint, thinner, cleaning fluid, air freshener, etc. But here are some that are downright bizarre…

1. Cow dung

Bleurgh for real?! Malacca Health and Sports Development Committee Chairman Datuk Rahaman Karim confirmed that a lot of kids have indeed used this disgusting substitute. The methane gas can apparently feed the addiction up to 12 hours. An investigation in Sentul, KL saw a group of addicts approaching cows with plastic bags to collect dung as the cows pooped, reported The Star.

2. Morning glory seeds

We didn’t find any news of this one being popular among Malaysian kids but someone told us that Morning Glory seeds can also get a person high. Why Morning Glory? Coz it contains Lysergic Acid Amide, from the same family as LSD. Its psychedelic effects can last up to 10 hours if ingested orally (for our friend it lasted 26 hours!!). While that may seem fun, it’s really, really, REALLY bad for you… It can cause liver and neurological damage.

3. Petrol or thinner

Former AADK Deputy Director-General (Operation) Prof. Dr. Mahmood Nazar names these other 2 culprits that are popular options abused as inhalants. The methods are the same as sniffing glue and intoxication happens very quickly, within 1-5 minutes. Also like glue sniffing, the effects can be very potent, leading to DEATH.

WHY? Why are kids going for these harmful methods? There are 2 reasons:

  • Cheap
    Kids won’t have to pay like RM30-50 which is the price of a syabu pill. Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) social activist Kamaruddin Kassim explained that glue tins cost just RM2-5. As for cow dung, well we don’t expect cows to be charging for their *ahem*.
  • Accessible
    These are all common household items (except cow dung). Why would they not be easily accessible? Kids can buy glue or other stuff containing solvents from any convenience outlets. They are certainly not illegal either. CAP President Mohamed Idris added that since glue sniffing is not a criminal offence in Malaysia, sniffers indulged openly without any fear of legal action.

But is this bad gejala sosial only prevalent in East Malaysia, since these cases of the 2 boys happened in Sabah?Actually despite the simple methods, glue sniffers are found in bigger towns. According to Prof. Dr. Mahmood, the hot spots are Penang, Johor Baru, Kota Baru, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. “In KL, we found them in areas like Bukit Bintang,” he added.

At the end of the day, wherever you are in Malaysia, it’s best to protect your kids and watch for any signs of inhalant addiction.

Like that how to protect our kids?!

Obvious answer: keep kids away from solvent-based glues! Use water-based glue. Like this UHU stick. It’s usually labelled.

UHU glue stick

OK seriously though, to protect our kids, we should first find out the factors that cause them to turn to ‘drugs’.

In Myanmar, there’s a very sad reason why kids turn to sniffing glue – to stave off hunger. Let’s hope that our Malaysian children are not driven to this act by the same reason.

There are social factors driving kids to sniff glue and other inhalants. One of them is to get high as a form of escape. In an article by The Star, a 14-year-old addict told his story about how sniffing glue helped him to forget his past. The smell distorted his senses and led to hallucinations.

Another social factor is when kids fall into the company of those who abuse inhalants, they are likely to pick up the same habit themselves. A recent study by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak found that 79% of the activity is usually carried out in groups as it was ‘more exciting’ when they joined their friends in getting high. This is exactly what happened with this case of the 7-year-old boys from Sabah.

School children smoking. Image from Stomp.

There’s also a legal factor. According to Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF) Vice-Chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, inhalants are not included under the Dangerous Drugs Act. So the lack of legislation had left the police unable make arrests. 

So how can we solve the issue of glue sniffing?

At home

If you are a parent with a child who has tried out inhalants, DON’T IGNORE the problem hoping it’ll go away or as Datuk Suhaimi advised, don’t try to fix it on your own. Send your kids to professionals for rehab! That’s what the parents of the 2 Sabah boys did.

The 1Malaysia Cure and Care (C&C) Clinics provide psychosocial treatment which ranges from 1-3 months for inpatient treatment and follow-up monitoring. The centre accepts walk-in and voluntary clients. It designs free programmes for various types of drug abuse, reported The Star.

Counselling psychology listening mother issues

At school

We know the AADK holds awareness talks for schoolchildren. But is it ENOUGH to leave it to organisations? Maybe the Education Ministry could run clinics and programmes for ALL schools in Malaysia. And we’re not talking about your mundane ‘Anti-Dadah Day’ snooze-fests.

Malaysian Drug Prevention Association (Pemadam) President and Kubang Pasu MP, Datuk Johari Baharum recommended compulsory urine tests for all schools from time to time.

“Teach the kids how to differentiate between the type of drugs, their forms and colour, because a lot of drugs today look like Panadol and other medication.” – Datuk Johari Baharum, Pemadam President, The Malay Mail Online

police drugs school students sitting assembly

Nationwide

BAN glue sniffing!! Seriously! Here’s what someone has to say about it:

Screenshot 2015-03-09 12.02.28

MCPF’s Tan Sri Lam Thye believes that something should be done on the side of the law so he has called for legislation to make it illegal, according to The StarAfter all Singapore and Thailand have already done that.

The Malaysian government is currently studying our 2 neighbour countries’ model. Though the ban had been proposed donkey years ago in early 1990s we’re still dawdling on legislating it coz glue is widely used for domestic purposes.

OK then might we suggest taking the example of Scotland… In Scottish court case, Khaliq v HM Advocate, it was ruled as an offense to supply glue sniffing materials that were otherwise legal if you know it’s gonna be used for self-harm. Two shopkeepers were sentenced to prison for letting children buy their glue and plastic bags knowing perfectly well what the children were going to use them for.

Honestly when it comes to children’s (and 7-year-olds s’more) safety we see no excuse for dawdling. Even the CILISOS office was unanimous in this opinion. Glue + sniffing = NOT amateur! It’s even MORE fatal than standard drugs like heroin. But we can SAVE our kids if we identify the problem early. Like Prof. Dr. Mahmood said: “This problem is not like drug use where one can find them easily. But children who get help early can be prevented from moving on to the next level of drugs like syabu.”