Anti-drug strategies must be tailored to the individual

Singapore's anti-drug strategy is not optimal yet, and may never be, given a continuously changing environment (Rehabilitation a key plank in anti-drug strategy by the Ministry of Home Affairs; April 11).

As an addiction counsellor who has worked with drug users in our anti-drug institutions, and someone who has experienced addiction in the family, I see a different picture from the authorities.

I see too many one-size-fits-all intervention approaches in prisons and Drug Rehabilitation Centres, which are not effective.

There is insufficient counselling, correctional and even family therapy sessions to help a user work towards abstinence.

The problem is complex.

Each drug user faces different psychological and socio-economic factors that got him or her into drugs and keep the individual in it.

These factors have not been sufficiently addressed.

We need to relook our reintegration strategies too, as we face high recidivism and rearrest rates with drug users.

The employment rates of former drug users in companies that support the Yellow Ribbon project tend to fall over time, raising questions about the manner in which these companies employ and treat them.

Halfway homes have a noticeable number of former drug users who remain there for prolonged periods.

The reasons for this state of affairs are stigma from society, disownment by families and the resultant fear, under-confidence, lack of motivation and lack of self-esteem on the part of the user to abstain from drugs.

No amount of strategies, programmes or complex organisational structures are going to work if we do not work individually and intimately with the drug user and his family.

We need to understand his problems, support him and help him satisfy his basic psychological needs over a prolonged period.

The "village" must come together to help him strive towards drug abstinence and full functionality.

We must review what we are currently doing to help drug users rehabilitate and reintegrate effectively with family, community and society, and to live meaningful lives.

Kuharajahsingam Karalasingam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2017, with the headline 'Anti-drug strategies must be tailored to the individual'. Print Edition | Subscribe