More under-30s turning to drugs

More than two-thirds of new drug abusers arrested in first half of year are below 30

The number of young drug abusers is continuing to grow.

Statistics released by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) yesterday show that more than two-thirds of new drug abusers arrested in the first half of this year are under 30.

In total, 1,684 abusers - of which 37 per cent were new abusers - were caught between January and June this year, up from 1,560 in the same period last year.

Experts said more needs to be done to tackle the problem.

Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (Sana) executive director Abdul Karim told The Straits Times that there is a need to look at what more can be done for preventive drug education efforts.

He added that Sana is looking at extending its programme targeted at secondary school students.

"The reasons for this trend include the lack of parental supervision, peer pressure and, more worryingly, the perception that drugs are okay and not harmful," he said. "That is something we need to address."

Resilienz Clinic psychiatrist Thomas Lee, who has treated drug abusers, agreed: "Young people may not know about the dangers of drugs - it's crucial to educate them from young. It's as important as sex education, if not more.

"Young abusers also tend not to seek help. By the time anyone knows, they would probably have been caught and some of them would have become addicted."

The CNB also said that it will step up its efforts to spread the anti-drug message among the youth, especially at the post- secondary level.

Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children's Society, said that there should be a firmer approach.

She said: "The light-handed approach may not be the best course of action. We need to send the right message to these young people that they can't get away with experimenting drugs, and we need to be stricter to ensure they don't repeat it." She added that some young people take drugs to cope with stress.

"Today's young people are easily stressed and if they cannot deal with the situation, they need to get professional help before it gets worse," she said.

Meanwhile, the CNB said it seized about $3.55 million worth of drugs in the first half of this year, down from the $4.71 million in that period last year.

The two most commonly abused drugs are methamphetamine and heroin. But fewer people are sniffing glue - 61 inhalant abusers were caught between January and June this year, down from 69 in the same period last year.

The CNB said it is monitoring the overall drug abuse situation closely, including the number of younger drug abusers arrested.

Its spokesman said: "We will continue with our efforts to stem drug abuse. This includes rigorous enforcement to tackle drug supply and demand - both inland and in collaboration with our international partners." She added that the CNB will continue to work closely with its partners and parents on preventive education.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2015, with the headline 'More under-30s turning to drugs'. Print Edition | Subscribe