OPIATE or opioid drugs are derivatives of the opium poppy such as heroin, morphine and codeine.
Opiates include synthetic drugs that are based on opiate structures. Synthetic opiates are widely used as painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone and vicodin.
Opioids are often abused because they are excellent painkillers that are widely prescribed by doctors. Many workers are prescribed this drug to reduce pain due to injuries. However, some keep using them even after the pain has been relieved. This leads to addiction. They may visit multiple doctors to get additional prescriptions.
According to the National Anti-Drug Agency Malaysia, opiates were the most commonly abused drugs in Malaysia in 2016, but has since shown a steady decrease.
Individuals who take opiates without proper guidelines by medical practitioners may experience the harmful effects of overdose. Brain damage, tolerance to and high dependence on the drugs (addiction) are among the long-term effects of opiate abuse.
Opiate overdose could affect the ability of the brain to regulate breathing. This may slow down breathing, leading to death.
Opiate abuse also affects a person’s productivity and increases the risk of workplace accidents.
Cannabis or ganja is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. The compounds are collectively referred to as cannabinoids.
Cannabis, one of the most popular recreational drugs in the world, is illegal in most countries. It is estimated that 178 million people aged 15 to 64 used cannabis at least once in 2012.
Cannabis has been used as alternative medicine in many cultures and is believed to have existed since 400AD.
In recent times, it has been used in the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy and anorexia, and cachexia in HIV/AIDS patients. Medical cannabis is taken in herbal form, which is extracted naturally from the plant or manufactured synthetically.
Australia, Canada, Germany and some states in the United States have legalised medical cannabis.
The abuse of cannabis can lead to disrupted sense, changes in mood, impaired memory and hallucination. In the long term, it causes mental health and other psychological problems.
Pre-employment and random drug screenings are effective in detecting drug abuse in the workplace. In the US, a study shows that only 50 per cent of employers screen workers for opiate abuse.
Drug abuse among workers should be taken seriously as it can jeopardise safety. In Malaysia, there is an increase in drug screenings at workplaces partly due to the influx of foreign workers.
DR MOHD NAZRI ISMAIL
Analytical Biochemistry Research Centre, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang