The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) is striking out against the growing popularity of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), especially among youth, amid Singapore's renewed fight against drugs.
From May 1, five NPS will be classified as Class A controlled drugs, so trafficking, manufacturing, importing, exporting, possessing or consuming them will be an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), said CNB yesterday.
Four of them are now in the Act's Fifth Schedule, while one new NPS - commonly known as "Pink" or U-47700 - has been added to the First Schedule of Class A drugs. These refer to substances with properties that might cause dependence and present a serious risk of abuse.
Nine other NPS will be added to the Fifth Schedule - this allows CNB to seize them, restricting their circulation, while research and industry consultation are conducted.
NPS refer to substances with effects similar to those of controlled drugs such as cannabis or cocaine.
"The listing of new NPS in the Fifth Schedule of the MDA is a necessary pre-emptive move to restrict the circulation of these harmful substances in our community," said CNB.
It noted the rapid increase in the number, type and availability of NPS worldwide, with at least 730 such substances identified last year.
Many NPS have been reported in overseas journals to have no licit medical use, said CNB. "Their abuse has been linked to adverse physical and psychological reactions, including paranoia, seizures, hallucinations and even death," it said.
But NPS going by names such as "K2", "spice" and "magic mushrooms" have become popular in the past two years, especially among users in their teens to 30s, drug counsellors told The Straits Times.
Mr Robin Tay, who is programmes manager at The New Charis Mission, which runs a halfway house, said: "People take NPS because they think it cannot be detected in their urine... Some youth think NPS are not addictive."
The minimum punishment for trafficking Class A controlled drugs is five years' imprisonment and five strokes of the cane.
Offenders are also liable for enhanced penalties if they re-offend or sell to young or vulnerable persons, said CNB.
Mr Christopher De Souza, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said that classifying NPS as Class A drugs is a strategic move that should continue to be taken in order to keep removing them from the market.
"What we don't want is for people to be lured into taking the drugs because they are not Class A drugs, and therefore seen as not harmful," said Mr De Souza, who tabled a motion in Parliament last month on Singapore's anti-drug fight and called for a regular review of the MDA.
• Additional reporting by Theresa Tan