Teenage drug abusers on the decline in Singapore since onset of Covid-19 pandemic

The number of abusers under 20 arrested in 2020 fell to 305, making up 10 per cent of all 3,056 abusers arrested that year. PHOTO: PEXELS

SINGAPORE - The number of teenage drug abusers here has fallen since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This development is unlike the upward trend noted for the group since about a decade ago.

In 2012, there were 190 abusers arrested who were under 20 years old, making up 5.4 per cent of all 3,507 abusers arrested that year.

By 2019, the number of under-20 abusers arrested hit a peak of 376.

This is 10.7 per cent of all 3,526 arrested abusers that year - essentially doubling the demographic's proportion and numbers in just seven years.

But following that surge in teenage drug abusers, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen their numbers fall.

The number of abusers under 20 arrested in 2020 fell to 305, making up 10 per cent of all 3,056 abusers arrested that year.

In its annual report released on Thursday (Feb 10), the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) revealed that this number again fell in 2021, to 200 abusers under 20 arrested.

This made up 7.3 per cent of the 2,724 abusers arrested last year.

The development comes amid CNB's ramped-up outreach efforts to youth, with multiple campaigns launched in 2021.

This included the DrugFreeSG Video Competition 2021, which saw 215 participants expressing their understanding of the harms of drugs through short videos.

There was also a collaboration with The Straits Times to develop a microsite titled Make the Right Choice, which featured digital content, games, quizzes, articles and videos to educate the public on the negative consequences drugs may cause.

The microsite was launched in the middle of last year.

A CNB spokesman told ST that while the local drug situation remains under control, the bureau is still concerned with the number of young drug abusers.

"Youth today may be more exposed, through the mass media and Internet, to the liberal drug views of other countries that have resorted to harm-reduction strategies or legalising drugs in an attempt to deal with their problematic drug situation," she said.

The spokesman added that the proportion of new drugs abusers under the age of 30 arrested in 2021 remains significant.

Of the 937 new abusers arrested last year, 561 were under the age of 30, making up about 60 per cent of all new abusers.

In his message issued during the release of the annual report, CNB director Ng Ser Song said Singapore's focus is on building a drug-free society and not a drug-tolerant one.

As such, the Republic adopts a harm-prevention approach in dealing with drugs.

"Our approach has worked well for our context and has helped keep the drug situation under control," he said.

"CNB, working closely with the community, will keep up our efforts to prevent drug abuse, and keep Singapore drug-free for future generations."

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