New taskforce to tackle nagging drug problem among young Singaporeans

A new Government taskforce which will be co-chaired by Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli (above) and Minister of State for Education Sim Ann will be set up to address the persistent problem of drug abuse a
A new Government taskforce which will be co-chaired by Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli (above) and Minister of State for Education Sim Ann will be set up to address the persistent problem of drug abuse among young Singaporeans. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 

SINGAPORE - A new Government taskforce will be set up to address the persistent problem of drug abuse among young Singaporeans.

The taskforce, which will be co-chaired by Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli and Minister of State for Education Sim Ann, will consider measures ranging from preventive education to detection, enforcement, counselling and rehabilitation. It will recommend measures and approaches to deal with the drug threat amongst students in schools and post-secondary institutions, full-time National Servicemen and young adults in their 20s.

The taskforce will comprise of representatives from government agencies and community partners, including the Singapore Anti Narcotics Association Sana, Mr Masagos said on Friday. More details will be announced at a later date.

Speaking at an annual dinner organised by Sana to celebrate the contributions of its volunteers, donors and community partners, Mr Masagos said the drug situation remains challenging. Last year, the number of drug abusers arrested continued an upward trend since 2006, registering a 2 per cent increase over 2012. The situation among younger Singaporeans is also of concern. Over the past decade, the number of drug abusers under 20 years old who have been arrested has increased by an average of 7 per cent per annum. Over the same period, the those aged between 20 and 29 years old who were arrested for drug abuse rose by an average of 11 per cent each year.

The Senior Minister of State also pointed to several trends among younger Singaporeans that are particularly worrying. Young abusers tend to use cannabis, methamphetamine, or New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) - mistakenly thinking these drugs are less harmful and addictive then "traditional" drugs such as opium or heroin. The trend has been made worse by the legalisation of some of these drugs, such as cannabis, overseas.

Secondly, while youths still generally hold a negative attitude towards drug abuse, a greater proportion of youths are adopting liberal attitudes towards drugs - as reflected in the National Council Against Drug Abuse's Youth Perception Survey last year. The trend has not been helped by movies and television shows normalising drug use, Mr Masagos said, even as online sites and forums advocate the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.

The Central Narcotics Bureau has also recently detected clusters of young drug abusers, who tend to be classmates or who may have gotten to know each other through other activities, Mr Masagos said. In his speech, Mr Masagos said the Government will uphold its "zero-tolerance approach against drugs", even as it continues to closely monitor the overall drug situation.