Drug use among the young: Singapore ‘may need more stratified approach’

Experts here say regular data collection on well-being, like what Iceland does, could help improve drug prevention strategies, but Singapore may need a more stratified approach due to its population size and diversity.

About 20 countries have tried, or are taking steps, to implement the Icelandic model of drug prevention, said Mr Jon Sigfusson, director of the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis.

He believes the model can easily be replicated worldwide, but a potential obstacle is some local governments' unwillingness to acknowledge problems in their communities that need to be tackled.

Iceland's and Finland's models for drug prevention are among those that Singapore is studying, as Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam warned of a new generation of drug abusers earlier this year.

Psychiatrist Thomas Lee of The Resilienz Clinic noted that Singapore's population is over 10 times larger than Iceland's. "We have a more diverse culture and heterogeneous social lifestyles. The task of getting such data will be considerably more challenging."

Addictions specialist Munidasa Winslow called it a "basic" move to increase family time and recreational activities, which are recognised ways to keep youth clean. But society has to recognise the urgency of using it.

Addictions specialist Munidasa Winslow called it a "basic" move to increase family time and recreational activities - which are recognised ways to keep youth clean. But society has to recognise the urgency of using it.

 
 
 
 

"It's a message that needs to go out to families, that quality of life depends not on how much you earn, but the amount of time that you spend with your family," he said. "It's not only the drug problem, but others like delinquency, which will also be reduced."

It should be a multi-agency effort to get parents more involved in their children's lives, said Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association executive director Abdul Karim.

Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law Christopher de Souza said that while Singapore should look to precedents abroad, its "foundations must remain to deter supply and demand". Prevention strategies such as drug education could also be improved by incorporating it into the science curriculum as examinable material to "cast the net wide across to all schools", he said. He expressed support for greater parental involvement in organised activities, but said "we should be careful not to adopt wholesale what other jurisdictions do".

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore 'may need more stratified approach''. Print Edition | Subscribe