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Most disagree with drug users being legally treated as ‘sick persons’: poll

A former drug addict concentrates on a piece of woodwork as he undergoes a rehab programme at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Phunphin district of Surat Thani.

A majority of people disagree with the Narcotics Act, which in principle presumes that “drug users” are “sick persons”, saying drug users should be penalised because otherwise they could eventually become drug dealers, according to an opinion survey by the National Institute of Development Administration, or Nida Poll.

The poll was conducted on Oct 10-12 on 1,310 people aged 15 and over of various levels of education, occupations and incomes throughout the country to compile their opinions on the principle of the Narcotics Act presuming drug users to be “sick persons”.

Asked whether they agreed with this principle, a majority, 64.04%, said “no” – with 50.15% saying drug users should be penalised, otherwise they could eventually become drug traders. A further 13.89% were in moderate disagreement, saying if there were no penalties, more people would be tempted to use drugs and drug problems should be solved by addressing the root causes.

On the other side, 20.31% totally agreed with the principle, saying users may have been misled and should be brought for treatment and rehabilitation, while 15.57% were in moderate agreement, saying that under this principle drug users who wanted to quit could seek rehabilitation without fear of legal action.

Asked how many methamphetamine pills found on a person should legally qualify them as a “drug user”, 34.96% insisted they completely disagreed with the principle that “users” be presumed “sick”; 30.76% said not more than one pill; 16.11% two or three pills; 7.33% 4-6 pills; 3.59%10-12 pills; 2.75% 7-9 pills; and 1.75% 13-15 pills.

Asked whether they knew any drug users or former drug users personally, 56.11% said “no” and 43.89% said “yes”.

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