Anti-drug effort may be undermined by threat of punishment

It was wonderful to read about the initiative of the 47 partners of the United Against Drugs Coalition to spread the anti-drug message to the public and youngsters (Screening for servicemen, new coalition among anti-drug efforts; April 26).

It is initiatives like these that will combat the growth of a tolerant drug culture. These initiatives have to penetrate every Singapore home and reach all parents.

It was, however, disappointing to read about "stern disciplinary action" for those in the uniformed groups.

If punishment is threatened, and rehabilitation is not the focus, as suggested in the parliamentary debate earlier this month, how can the anti-drug strategy work effectively?

If punishment is the focus in the uniformed groups, and rehabilitation is the focus in the non-uniformed sectors, where is the consistency in this new anti-drug approach?

Also, if employees in the non-uniformed sectors are caught for consuming drugs, will they be surrendered to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) for punishment?

Would this arrangement with CNB not force drug takers to try and hide their consumption, rather than help them come out and declare that they are addicts?

The aim of the anti-drug strategy must be to continually educate the public and youngsters to stay away from drugs, and that means letting them know that the system will help them work towards abstinence, rather than punish them for owning up.

Punishment destroys self-esteem and confidence, and erodes the motivation that an addict needs to break the harmful habit of drug consumption.

Kuharajahsingam Karalasingam