Innovative Treatment Modalities Combat Modern Addictions

Innovative Treatment Modalities Combat Modern Addictions

Addiction is defined as an obsession with substances or behaviors that harm oneself. It involves chronic and compulsive dependence on a substance or behavior that disrupts daily life and can lead a person out of control to the point of losing oneself. As a result, various problems arise in terms of physical and mental health, relationships, and employment, with some addictions even leading to death. However, with proper and proven control and prevention methods, it can be overcome, thus improving the quality of life.

Nevertheless, the question arises about the evolution of addiction to the point where treatment modalities also require adaptation. Psychology Counseling Expert, Founder, and CEO of Solace Asia, Adjunct Professor Dr. Prem Kumar Shanmugam, and Chairperson of the Malaysian Harm Reduction Society (MSHR), Professor Dr. Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh, discussed several issues regarding modern addiction treatment modalities, which, according to them, involve drug addiction or illicit substances that have evolved to the point where conventional or traditional treatments no longer meet the needs.

They stressed that this necessitates regulatory authorities, including research and health experts, to make efforts to reevaluate new treatment modalities. Both Dr. Prem and Dr. Sharifa were interviewed during a special interview with Astro AWANI at the Evolving Treatment Methodologies in Addiction (ETMA) Conference in the capital recently.

The conference aimed to explore advancements in addiction treatment modalities and policies while providing insights into innovative addiction treatment challenges and solutions. Reevaluating Traditional Treatment Modalities The main concern expressed about traditional or conventional treatment methods is their limited effectiveness. “The public needs to realize that new addictive substances, such as synthetic drugs, have begun to dominate the market, complicating traditional treatment methods. Illegal drugs or substances are no longer derived from natural materials such as plants or natural chemicals; instead, they have evolved to the point where they are difficult to prevent using traditional methods,” said Dr. Prem.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sharifa presented several video presentations titled Zombie Drug, which showed the use of synthetic drug xylazine, making addicts wander aimlessly and in a state of forgetfulness, akin to ‘zombies.’ She acknowledged that non-opioid drugs are being widely used, leading to negative effects such as behavioral and severe health problems within the community.
This phenomenon can be observed in several cities in the United States. Therefore, Dr. Sharifa emphasized the importance of utilizing technology for regulatory purposes, especially in detecting and monitoring addict hotspots. She stressed the need for enforcement agencies to use the latest technology to combat addiction trends more effectively. “Overall, only new and current technology can combat this modern addiction. Among them, broadcasting and communication technologies are used to increase awareness and knowledge about addiction effects,” said Dr. Prem.

According to both of them, several innovative approaches to addiction treatment have shown progress in research. Among those listed by Dr. Prem and Dr. Sharifa are tobacco treatments as seen in developed countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, where tobacco products are used as alternatives in vaping, snus, and heated tobacco products such as IQos.

These products deliver nicotine without burning tobacco, reducing tobacco addiction. However, Malaysia has not fully embraced these alternatives and may need more effective regulatory controls to prevent misuse. “Compared to the ‘quit cold turkey’ model, which may not be effective for everyone, harm reduction approaches for sustainable recovery are more viable.

For example, instead of directing someone to quit smoking immediately, it is better to ask them to gradually reduce smoking to achieve cessation. It is also the same for drug addiction,” said Dr. Prem. He cited examples such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy and Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), which are being explored, along with new therapy models such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), hypnosis, and solution-focused therapy.

Collaboration of Various Parties to Incorporate Effective Inputs In addition, Dr. Sharifa stated that both public and private healthcare sectors should collaborate in addressing the needs of individuals struggling with addiction. She called for a multi-collaborative approach that combines inputs from various stakeholders to ensure effective and inclusive care.

Dr. Prem echoed Dr. Sharifa’s sentiment, emphasizing the need for the healthcare system to adapt to the changing addiction landscape. “I acknowledge that it is important for us to always keep up with developments in addiction treatment and foster cooperation between healthcare professionals and policymakers,” he said.

Among the suggested methods is to foster recovery through awareness, education, and policy. Dr. Prem and Dr. Sharifa stated that a holistic approach is essential in addressing the root causes of addiction and promoting an environment supportive of long-term recovery. “Given the ongoing challenges such as the opioid crisis and the emergence of new addictive substances, increased collaboration among stakeholders to address various forms of addiction is needed,” said Dr. Sharifa.

In conclusion, considering the evolving addiction landscape, treatment modalities need to be adapted through innovation, collaboration, and commitment to sustainable recovery.


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