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Designer drugs to become illegal in S'pore

Designer drugs, or synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of controlled drugs like methamphetamine and heroin, will become illegal and attract the same penalties from May 1.

SINGAPORE: Designer drugs, or synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of controlled drugs like methamphetamine and heroin, will become illegal and attract the same penalties from May 1.

While it is now legal to possess these drugs, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) has the power to seize them to restrict their circulation.

Designer drugs are made by introducing slight modifications to the chemical structures of controlled drugs.

One example is synthetic cannabinoids, which imitates marijuana.

But it does not make them less harmful.

Abuse of such new psychoactive substances (NPS) has been linked to health problems such as seizures, hallucinations and even death.

Nevertheless, they are being developed rapidly across the world.

Based on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime World Drug Report 2013, many NPS are being used as substitutes for controlled drugs, often being touted as "legal highs" that can be abused without fear of enforcement action.

In Singapore, though it is legal to possess these drugs, the CNB has the power to seize them to restrict their circulation. 

As at end February 2014, CNB had seized NPS on at least 30 occasions.

There are currently 11 types of compounds under the Fifth Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act, with over a hundred specific examples listed.

From May, drugs listed under the Fifth Schedule will then be re-classified as Class A controlled drugs.

This means that those convicted of abusing them may be jailed up to 10 years and fined up to S$20,000.

Those found guilty of trafficking such substances will face a minimum of five years' jail and five strokes of the cane.

At the same time, a new list of substances will be placed in the Fifth Schedule.

This will enable CNB to seize the substances to restrict their circulation while research and industry consultation is conducted.

CNB said that the drug situation is challenging -- the number of repeat drug abusers and young drug abusers remains a concern.

With the abuse and trafficking of new psychoactive substances on the rise, listing these substances as controlled drugs signals its unequivocal stance that they are illegal.

CNB will also be empowered to subject abusers to supervision, commit them to a drug rehabilitation centre for treatment and rehabilitation, or charge them in court.  

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