Malaysian Mosque Dispenses Methadone
Ah-Rahman is the first mosque in the world to dispense methadone—in a country that jails heroin users for life.
A Malaysian mosque outside Kuala Lumpur is dispensing methadone to the scores of heroin addicts who come to its doors. The Ah-Rahman—the first mosque in the world with a methadone program operating out of it—currently helps 50 people aged 18-60 who want to kick their heroin addictions. Patients take methadone under the watchful eye of pharmacists for the first two months and must continually pass urine tests before being allowed to take three doses home with them. The conservative Muslim country is generally severe on drugs, which are forbidden by both Muslim scholars and Malaysian law; heroin possession is punishable by life in prison, while selling it earns you a death sentence. But the doctors at the University of Malaya who put together this program have been able to get religious authorities on board. They plan to expand it to two more mosques in the coming months. "It makes me no longer take heroin on the street," says one man in the program. "It makes me want to work." Before the introduction of methadone, heroin addicts were sent to government rehab centers for two years, where they would go “cold turkey”—an approach doctors said led to a high relapse rate. Malaysia has an estimated 170,000 intravenous drug users, with heroin the most commonly used drug. The doctors at Ah-Rahman hope to reduce the stigma surrounding drug users in order to help them more easily.