Thailand is the first country in Southeast Asia to legitimise the use of cannabis and ketum for medical purposes. Will Malaysia follow suit?
The lifting of travel restrictions to Thailand has seen an upsurge in travel to the land of a thousand smiles.
There are no more checks on your vaccination status from your MySejahtera app or your health status, as there is no need for testing at entry and departure terminals at the airport. And that put a smile on our faces as our trip to Bangkok mid-August was one experience I cannot forget.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief even though the mandatory wearing of masks is still on either on the plane or in enclosed or crowded places. And this makes sense as the new variant is quite contagious during this endemic stage, though not necessarily severe.
I know of friends who don’t show symptoms but tested positive upon learning their close contacts had been infected. Even then not everyone in the group will be infected.
While we hope the endemic stage will finally bring back life to a new, albeit different normal, we still find at least a couple of thousand cases being reported daily. While it was reported that the daily death toll is now in single digits, it shows that it is still serious to certain health groups.
How do we keep ourselves safe in the current situation where many of those tested positive are asymptomatic?
My friend tested positive a couple of weeks after returning from a kenduri with some of our former classmates. He was suffering from diabetes, glaucoma and is generally not in good health.
Besides taking pills, he also self-administers insulin injections daily. His infection was severe as he suffered vomiting, high fever, headaches and coughing.
Adopt a change in lifestyle
Since the outbreak, my healthcare professionals have always recommended taking supplements of zinc, vitamins B, C and D3 plus Ivermectin and even Colchicine to enhance one’s overall immune system. And added to that, a daily 40ml dose of ketum juice from the kampung helped him into negative territory after five days!
Panadols or paracetamol will help to bring down the fever and cough mixture, gargling with salt water or mouthwash can relieve sore throat or cough. Doctors will also recommend certain drugs depending on the severity of the symptoms.
At this point, a few of my friends also suffered from flu and headache because of the weather and not because of Covid-19 as they tested negative.
The bottom line here is to continue to test oneself to ensure we are safe from Covid-19 or mainly due to other ailments which may even be as severe. A long-time media friend of mine passed away a month ago after suffering a viral infection unrelated to Covid-19.
There is also now a real need to adopt a change in lifestyle in terms of physical exercise and proper food and nutrition consumption. As non-communicable diseases or NCDs, namely diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure, gout and cancer continue to rise, many have ignored the cause until it is too late.
Fast food has also been identified as one of the causes inflicting the young. Fizzy and sugary drinks are others on the list.
Coming back to my trip to Bangkok, the traffic jams in the city have returned and the shopping malls, dinner cruises on the Chao Phraya, and the floating markets to name a few of the attractions were filled with local and foreign tourists celebrating this new freedom. However, we noticed that tourists from China and Japan were conspicuously missing as these countries were still under travel restrictions.
One of our exciting discoveries was the sale of cannabis by vendors on the streets and drinks with cannabis extracts in retail outlets like 7-Eleven.
We discovered that these so-called cannabis drinks were also flavoured with lemon, lavender and other fruits which are mere marketing gimmicks not unlike the Tongkat Ali drinks sold in our country which mostly contain high levels of sugar and are a high contributor to diabetes.
Conducting clinical studies on cannabis and ketum
Thailand is the first country in Southeast Asia to legitimise the use of cannabis and ketum for medical purposes. On June 9, 2022, after Thailand decriminalised cannabis (a.k.a. marijuana), ketum and hemp, the production, distribution, consumption and possession of these items are now allowed.
However, smoking marijuana is only allowed at home, on private premises, and not openly. Extracts of cannabis which contain more than 0.2 per cent of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound found in marijuana, will remain illegal.
The Thai Ministry of Higher Education, Science Research and Innovation (MHESI) has banned cannabis in all public universities and agencies as concerns linger over its improper use. Activities to educate the students, staff and nearby communities on the proper use of cannabis are being encouraged.
Late in August, our Minister of Health Khairy Jamaluddin went on a four-day fact-finding visit to Thailand to assess the potential medical use of cannabis. The two countries are keen to undertake collaborative research to develop opportunities in clinical studies on cannabis and ketum and other medical innovations to improve the quality of healthcare in Malaysia further.
Khairy had said that a framework on the registration of certain cannabidiol (CBD) products will soon be announced.
All these steps are being taken to ensure any abuse of these substances is controlled. In fact, the Malaysian authorities will still not allow the recreational use of cannabis in this country.
One thing is for sure, the call to do research on our natural herbs and plants for health and medical purposes will help to contribute to the growing global hemp health industry, which is currently valued at US$4.9 billion and is projected to reach US$18.6 billion by 2027, a cumulative annual growth rate of 22.4 per cent between 2021 and 2027. – The Health
ADI SATRIA, a marketing communications veteran, continues to use natural herbs, fruits and vegetables to enhance his immune system while adopting a healthy lifestyle. He feels Malaysia should lead in research on plants that are endemic to the country and will contribute to enhancing the healthcare system and the growing global hemp industry.