The Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (Sana) scheme is a good initiative (Drug addicts to get online counselling via live chat service, March 25 ).
Singapore needs more of such services to reach out to drug users who feel isolated from families and communities as a result of labelling and discrimination.
But there is a challenge. Sana is a government agency, and there is always that connection to the Central Narcotics Bureau and Police, and the possibility of being imprisoned when caught.
Until and unless these links are disconnected, many drug users will continue to remain "under ground". So while efforts like this scheme use the social model to help drug users, the prevalent and overarching national model to contain the drug menace is still the penal model.
We need to take out the penal model when dealing with drug users, and increasingly employ the social and medical models for treatment of drug addiction as the only models.
Additionally, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee's statements do not capture fully the drug landscape in Singapore. While what he said has relevance, there are many drug users who got addicted and stay so because of other more dominant psycho-social and socio-economic reasons. These include, for example, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse, poor economic performance in some sectors, inability to get a job, insufficient financial resources, poor family functionality, breakdown of families, the omnipresence of other addictions, like smoking, alcohol, gambling.
We must recognise these factors.