Drugs and cash seized during a CNB operation on 14 September 2016 (Source : CNB).

Total numbers of drug abusers on the rise

Parliamentary Secretary for Singapore Ministry of. Home Affairs, Amrin Amin said in Parliament that the total numbers of drug abusers arrested rose from 2,887 to 3,343.

This is his response to Mr Azmoon Ahmad, Nominated Member of Parliament, who asked the Minister for Home Affairs with recent statistics showing an increase in Malay drug abusers, what actions have been taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs to curtail this trend, whether Singapore is on the right path in combating drug addiction, and whether the core of the problem has been understood to arrive at the right solutions and action.

Mr Amin said the number of Malay drug abusers increased from 1,376 in 2010 to 1,738 in 2015. The number of Indian drug abusers arrested has also gone up, from 403 in 2010 to 522 in 2015. Worryingly, of these 522 Indian drug abusers, 265 were Indian Muslims. They are disproportionately represented in this context. The number of Chinese abusers arrested was about 1,000 in both 2010 and 2015.

He said that the Government has worked on multiple fronts, with multiple partners, in the fight against drugs, to strengthen prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation.

“First, we need good preventive drug education efforts. The key focus has to be on our youths,” he said, adding that they also work with parents and schools in their efforts to reach out more effectively to our youths.

He noted that the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) has stepped up engagement on various social media platforms to provide more frequent, bite-size information and messages on drugs.

“We are also building an Anti-drug Abuse Advocacy Network in our communities. This Network comprises individuals who help to promote a drug-free lifestyle and society, through their own social circles,” he added.

Mr Amin said that they also work closely with our community partners to engage youths with our anti-drug messages. For example, CNB worked with MENDAKI and Majulah Community to provide an anti-drug talk to a group of student leaders, so that they could share what they learnt about drug abuse with their peers.

Second, the Government said it need rigorous enforcement to keep drugs away from our streets. CNB has enhanced its capabilities to tackle drug syndicates. The Organised Crime Act, which came into force in June this year, criminalises organised crime activities, such as the recruitment of members into drug syndicates. In particular, the Act introduces Preventive Orders, which can be issued by the Courts as a pre-emptive measure.

Third, he said that they need to better support drug abusers in their rehabilitation. Since 2014, they have introduced more intensive rehabilitation programmes in the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) for drug abusers with more severe drug addiction issues and higher risk of re-offending.

Earlier this year, the Government introduced a day release programme for low-risk drug abusers in the DRC, to facilitate their re-integration into society. Under this arrangement, drug abusers are allowed to work or study in the community during the day, and they will return to a community facility at night. They are subjected to supervision, such as regular urine tests.

“However, a strong in-care programme is not sufficient. The rehabilitation journey after release is a crucial step. If the drug abusers do not have good family and peer support, they are more likely to relapse,” he stated.

Mr Amin said that the Government work closely with the community to help ex-abusers. One example is the Community Befriender Project. The Project matches volunteers with inmates who have poor family or peer support. The volunteers visit the inmates, and offer them moral support. They continue to meet the inmates after their release, and help build a new social support network. Since 2010, about 600 inmates have benefitted from this Project.

Another one is The Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA) which opened its Step-Up Centre in January 2015. This Centre serves as a one-stop centre for services, such as counselling and support groups, to support ex-drug abusers and their families in their reintegration journey. More than 600 ex-abusers have sought help from the Centre.

Drugs have a devastating impact on individuals, families and the society. ”

We must therefore not let up on our efforts to be a drug-free society. We will continue to improve our prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation efforts. The community and families have a critical role to keep our youths away from drugs, and to keep ex-abusers from returning to drugs,” he said.

Editor’s note – So is it because there are more drugs out in the market despite the death penalty in place, or is there a social issue present specifically within the minorities given that the drug abusers are disproportionate from the Malay community.