USM’s Prof Dr B. Vicknasingam appointed member of WHO’s Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Prof Dr B. Vicknasingam, from the Centre for Drug Research, has been appointed to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Expert Advisory Panel on Drug Dependence.

The appointment, made this month, is for a four-year term.

Speaking to Twentytwo13, Vicknasingam, whose area of expertise is substance abuse and addiction, said it was an honour to serve on a committee within the WHO.

With expertise in drug policy, drug use, and HIV risk behaviour, Vicknasingam, who has served USM for over two decades, said his role would be to make recommendations to the world health body regarding drugs that are emerging in the market.

“There are a lot of new drugs that are emerging in the market, and the WHO needs to study if a particular drug causes drug dependence,” said Vicknasingam.

“The committee will look into the data, determine, and make recommendations to the WHO whether a particular drug can cause drug dependence or otherwise. The agency will then decide if they need to classify a particular drug as one which causes dependence.”

The 51-year-old Bukit Mertajam native, who has also done extensive research on ketum (kratom), shared that he had always viewed drug dependence as a medical condition, and not a crime.

He said those who were dependent on drugs needed to be treated, and not sent to jail.

Vicknasingam’s research interests include understanding and developing behavioural interventions for people who use drugs. Surveys to identify treatment barriers for people who use drugs, and the integration of substance abuse treatment with other medical services, are also his areas of interest.

Among some of his published research work are ‘Severity of Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa Korth) – Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms’ (2018), ‘Decriminalisation of Drug Use’ (2018), ‘Changing Trends in the Use of Kratom’ (2017), and ‘Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) Dependence, Withdrawal Symptoms, and Craving in Regular Users’ (2014).

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