The Ministry of Public Health will press ahead with a controversial amendment that would make possession of more than one methamphetamine pill dealing in illegal narcotics.
The move comes after Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Sunday that the ministry would be revising the law to deal with the serious problem of methamphetamine abuse in the country.
At present, those found with 15 or fewer pills in their possession are regarded as having them for personal use only and are subject to rehabilitation.
Mr Anutin said an investigation by the ministry’s committee on drug rehabilitation had shone a light on the extent of the meth problem and concluded that measures had to be toughened to bring it under control.
“The committee will amend the ministerial regulation and send it me for my signature. The ministry will later send it to the government for official acknowledgement. The new law will take effect after it is announced in the Royal Gazette,” Mr Anutin said.
He said it would be up to the police to enforce the law, and they will decide whether suspects are treated as drug users or drug dealers based on the evidence at hand and their own discretion.
The committee, he said, would also look into details of how to provide more effective medical treatment for drug addicts, as their numbers are likely to swell quickly once the law takes effect.
Dr Amporn Benjaponpitak, chief of the Department of Mental Health, said the number of addicts is rising as the price of speed pills has plunged in the past few years. There are now around 800,000 patients registered as methamphetamine addicts receiving medical treatment, she said.
"Unfortunately, the problem is that a third of them have dropped out of the programme," Dr Amporn said.
“The number is shocking. So we are going to provide more staff to follow up these cases. We have also offered a short training course to nurses showing them how to take care of patients suffering from drug abuse."
She said the ministry has been planning to increase drug rehabilitation units in state-owned hospitals, including community hospitals. As well, it plans to increase the number of psychiatrists from 50 to 800 a year over the next five years.
The National Health Security Office (NHSO) hopes to include community drug rehabilitation in the universal healthcare scheme, she said, providing drug abusers with an important channel to receive help in their own community.
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