Number of drug abusers arrested hits six-year high

About three in five arrested new drug abusers were under 30 years old. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More drug abusers were arrested by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) last year, with a marked increase in the use of methamphetamine and new psychoactive substances (NPS) among those caught.

There were 3,524 abusers arrested, the highest in six years and 2 per cent up on 2018, the CNB noted on Thursday (Feb 6).

Methamphetamine, heroin and NPS figured most highly in the arrests.

The CNB noted that 63 per cent of all abusers arrested last year took methamphetamine while 19 per cent used heroin. NPS abusers made up 12 per cent.

Officers arrested about 60 more methamphetamine users than in 2018, and about 70 more NPS users.

CNB director Ng Ser Song said regional developments like the increase in methamphetamine supply can have "adverse downstream implications on our drug situation".

"Globally, the new psychoactive substances market continues to evolve and expand quickly. The push for drug liberalisation in some countries is a cause for concern," he added.

"We must also not underestimate the impact of social media and mass media in spreading misinformation that normalises drug use, especially among our young."

Mr Ng said another area of concern is the proportion of new drug abusers arrested last year, which "remained high". This group made up about 42 per cent of all abusers arrested - up 8 per cent from 2018 to 1,469.

About three in five of these new drug abusers were under 30 years old. But there was also a spike in the number of older new drug abusers arrested last year, with 93 aged 50 and above, almost double the number from 2018.

Most new drug users took methamphetamine, with 73 per cent of new abusers caught for the drug last year. But NPS has overtaken cannabis as the second most commonly abused drug among new abusers, with users of these narcotics making up around 10 per cent of the new abuser population.

About 38 per cent of drug abusers arrested last year were below 30.

In terms of ethnic groups, the number of Chinese abusers arrested increased by 9 per cent to 1,066 last year. However, Malays still formed the bulk of the abusers caught, making up about 49 per cent.

The CNB seized about $6.52 million worth of drugs in street value - 31.1kg of crystalline methamphetamine - also known as "Ice" - 27.8kg of cannabis and 37.8kg of heroin, among other drug types.

It also dismantled 28 drug syndicates and conducted around 1,400 operations with other Home Team agencies to foil drug smuggling attempts.

Mr Ng said the CNB uses preventive drug education as its first line of defence against drugs.

Anti-drug strategies are also continually reviewed to stay ahead of the changing drug landscape, he added, noting that 31 new NPS were listed as Class A controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

"The community can be a strong ally in this fight by spreading the anti-drug message to their own circles of influence," he said.

"Together, we can keep our homes, streets and communities drug-free for our future generations."

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