More going abroad for drug fix

More Singaporeans are going abroad - to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and even Japan - for an easy fix, say social workers and drug addiction counsellors. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MUHAMMAD SHAH
More Singaporeans are going abroad - to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and even Japan - for an easy fix, say social workers and drug addiction counsellors. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MUHAMMAD SHAH

Easy availability, low cost lure S'pore users abroad despite danger of contaminated drugs

The club's dance floor was filled with partygoers, some of whom were lying in pools of vomit, too drugged to notice.

In the karaoke rooms, tables were turned into display counters for a host of party drugs, including Ecstasy and ketamine - all for sale. All Lynne had to do was pick her poison, pay, then shoot up for another temporary high.

The next day, a short trip across the Causeway brings her home to Singapore. The club, after all, was in Johor.

Since being sentenced to five years in jail for trafficking ketamine, 29-year-old Lynne, now an administrative assistant, has cleaned up.

But more Singaporeans are going abroad - to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and even Japan - for an easy fix, say social workers and drug addiction counsellors. This is despite the threat of being caught when they pass through Customs on returning to Singapore.

"Over there nobody knows you, and it's also cheaper," said counsellor Janet Wee, who works at the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association.

In the last two years, drug abusers here have been getting younger and more affluent, said Ms Wee. "It is becoming more common to see young executives organise drug parties abroad - they can be lawyers, doctors, businessmen."

Last month, 26-year-old Chua Wen Hu died in Jakarta from a suspected drug-related incident after attending a trance music performance.

The same weekend, two 27-year-old Singaporeans were arrested on drug charges by Kuala Lumpur police during a music event at the Bukit Jalil Stadium. A further 11 Singaporeans were hospitalised after taking drugs. And six Malaysians died.

The news did not come as a surprise for Lynne and three other former addicts The Sunday Times spoke to.

"They have everything there in Malaysia, you can just ask them, and they will offer you," said Lynne, who experimented with ketamine when she was 13, after "some friends told me if I took it, I could dance a lot and get happy".

"You can choose any brand you want and pay as little as RM8 (S$3) for one Ecstasy pill which in Singapore can cost 10 times as much. Even if you get caught, you can bribe the police," she said.

Pushers in Malaysia tend to market drugs adulterated with glass powder, and even rat poison, to raise their profits, the four former addicts told The Sunday Times. They suspect poorly mixed drugs could be behind the recent deaths.

"There are a lot of such cases in Malaysia and we know what is happening, we know the risks, but when you are young you just want to enjoy yourself," said Ann, who is now 42 and unemployed.

Formerly a part-time model and waitress, she used to drive to Johor three times a month to take drugs in empty rented houses and cemeteries before heading out to party.

Ex-addict Carl, a 38-year-old driver, said Malaysia was the drug haunt he "loved best" . It was close to home. And "about 70 per cent of the people we met at drug parties were from Singapore".

But he also frequented Indonesia and Thailand when he was a sales executive in his early 20s, spending $500 to $600 of his $4,500 monthly salary on drugs.

Bangkok was attractive for the "purity and large quantities" of drugs for sale. "In Thailand, you could order by the kilo."

Instead of having to sneak tiny sachets of substances around in Singapore, drugs are often consumed openly in these other countries.

He could simply hail a tuk-tuk (motorised rickshaw), tell the driver what drugs he wanted and be taken straight to the suppliers. After getting high, he would hit the discos. Said Carl: "Nobody there cares that you are taking drugs."

The former addicts also told The Sunday Times that some organisers of drug parties hand out pills and drinks, claiming that these can flush out the drugs before the users return to Singapore.

The seeming lack of enforcement overseas means some Singaporeans "would rather face the risks of low-quality drugs than the heavy punishments and the social stigma here", said Ms Wee.

"The strict laws here are, in a way, driving people overseas."

Helping Hands social worker Raymond Choo, who has worked with drug addicts for more than five years, said the belief that police in these other countries can be bribed also gives abusers the misconception that consuming drugs overseas is easier and safer.

But there is always a price to pay.

Lynne said her long-term memory was badly affected. Her skin became yellow and she grew paranoid. "I was like a crazy woman, and my habits hurt my family too.

"If you're not so lucky, taking drugs overseas can also cost you your life. It's just not worth it."

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

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