It can mean two things for people who use illicit drugs (PWUD) as they weather the COVID-19 storm along with the general population.
First, the supply of illicit drugs has dwindled, causing prices to hike across the world.
Second, the COVID-19 pandemic means that PWUD are exposed to additional risks.
Dr. Iqa Mohd Salleh in her opinion piece which was published in Bernama News explained there is a clear difference between people who use drugs and people with drug-use disorders. She mentioned that in the time of COVID-19 as the supply is dwindling it is the perfect time to explore opportunities to step up our game in our harm-reduction programmes and support services for PWUD, especially those who are experiencing drug dependence. Instead of incarcerating them in prison or drug rehabilitation centres.
In Malaysian overcrowded prisons, at least 60 per cent of the total number of prisoners is imprisoned due to minor drug-related offences. Overcrowding in prisons also makes social distancing measures difficult to apply, with inadequate infrastructure to cater for those who are infected with COVID-19.
The main aim is to treat PWUD with compassion, not judgement. After all, no one should be left behind.