Myanmar’s health ministry plans to set up eight one-stop rehabilitation centers to provide treatment and counseling services to drug addicts as the country wages an uphill battle against surging opium production.
The new facilities offering a full range of services at one location will open soon, Hla Htay, program manager of the National Drug Abuse Control Program, said at a press conference on Tuesday at Yangon’s Thingangyun Sanpya General Hospital.
A drug rehabilitation clinic will open at the hospital as well as in the Ywarthargyi Psychiatric Health Hospital in Yangon, he said.
The other clinics will be opened in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state, Kyuakme, Lashio and Muse in Shan state, and Kale and Tamu in the Sagaing region.
Services will include therapy using the synthetic drug methadone under medical supervision to treat heroin addicts, and substance-abuse counseling, he said.
“Inmates expect to have full services,” Hla Htay said.
“Patients don’t have to go to different places,” he said, adding that the new centers would be akin to “people getting most of what they want at a department store.”
“They will have all services at one center. They don’t have to spend money on travel, and they can save time.”
The new centers will supplement the country’s more than 100 existing nationwide drug rehabilitation clinics.
Major opium producer
Myanmar is the world's second largest opium producer after Afghanistan and is Southeast Asia's biggest synthetic drug maker, says the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).
Drug production in the country's war-ravaged borderlands has surged in recent years, particularly the manufacture of methamphetamine tablets in jungle laboratories.
The new drug rehabilitation centers are part of a project backed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, according to the Myanmar news agency Mizzima.
The fund is an international financing organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, which mobilizes resources to fight HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
Myanmar has 300,000 drug users, according to the UNDOC.
Hla Htay told Mizzima earlier this month that Myanmar has about 75,000 injecting drug users.
The National Drug Abuse Control Program had nearly 6,800 patients enrolled in methadone treatment program as of last June, he said.
Khin Pyae Soe, medical superintendent of Thingangyun Sanpya Hospital, said that although the one-stop service will be convenient for drug addicts, additional security will be required to prevent them from going back to drugs while at the clinic.
“We don’t have enough staff in the hospital,” she told RFA. “It would be good if we could provide one-stop service for them, but we need security such as police in such cases.”
In a report this week, the White House said Myanmar was among three countries that had “failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to [its] obligations under international counternarcotics agreements.”
Reported by Kyaw Lwin Oo and Myo Zaw Ko for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.