Indonesia now emphasises treatment over punishment of addicts

New approach offers help to users instead of throwing them in prison.

By Zahara Tiba for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

April 10, 2014
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Bayu Kurniawan was curious about experiencing new things when he was in high school 20 years ago.

  • Drug addict Yusuf is checked by a Jakarta clinic doctor in June 2006. Indonesia is shifting from punishment to rehabilitation to tackle its growing drug use problem. [Adek Berry/AFP]

    Drug addict Yusuf is checked by a Jakarta clinic doctor in June 2006. Indonesia is shifting from punishment to rehabilitation to tackle its growing drug use problem. [Adek Berry/AFP]

"It was the moment when teenagers were not considered cool unless they tried drugs. So I joined my friends," the 36-year-old information technology worker told Khabar Southeast Asia.

His friends became addicted. He watched several of them overdose.

"I took drugs for a decade. When I saw them die in vain, that was when I realized I had to stop," he said. "I also have two beautiful daughters. I'm afraid karma will do bad things to them."

Staying clean

With the support of his family, Bayu put his effort into a full recovery at a Tangerang rehabilitation centre in 2005.

"The first three days were the worst I have experienced in my life ... But thank God, I was clean after a week," said Bayu. "And I've stayed clean until now. The rehab centre helped me a lot."

The National Narcotics Control Board (BNN) announced this year it will focus on rehabilitation and therapy for drug users instead of throwing them in jail, BNN spokesman Sumirat Dwiyanto told Khabar.

"Indonesia launched its Narcotics Law in 2009, which says drug addicts and drug abuse victims are required to participate in medical and social rehabilitation. It guarantees them a humane approach, while punishing drug dealers, distributors, and producers," Sumirat said. "We believe the approach will effectively supress the numbers of drug distributions and users as well.

"That is where rehab centres play their important role supporting our programme."

There are nearly 180 state hospitals and community health centres (Puskesmas) and 40 community rehab centres ready to help support the programme. Sumirat said the government pledged to provide rehabilitation centres in more than 200 state hospitals in the near future.

Help from family

BNN's efforts receive a warm welcome from ex-drug users like Bayu. "Without them, I would not be here today," he said.

However, Samuel, another ex-drug user, said rehabilitation centres are not as important if family can lend support.

"I preferred home for rehabilitation three years ago," Samuel told Khabar. "My family did not judge me. They even gave more attention and asked me to sit down and talk. They took me to seek God's help through prayers.

"Somehow I found peace and realized what I did has hurt them so much," he added. "But if family is not able to do so, rehabilitation centres are the best option."

Reader Comments
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    • Zuhra
      April 10, 2014 @ 06:04:54AM
    • Drug addiction among teenagers is the most horrifying social phenomenon. Social projects as the world league "mind free of drugs" create specific educational projects that describe negative consequences of drug addiction. Such kind of activity helps to prevent addiction on subliminal level.

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