SINGAPORE: More first-time drug abusers were arrested last year compared to 2017, with the majority arrested under 30 years old, said the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in a press release on Monday (Feb 25).
A total of 3,438 drug abusers were arrested in 2018, an 11 per cent increase over the 3,091 arrested in 2017.
New abusers continue to form a significant proportion - about 40 per cent - of all abusers arrested.
Of the 1,366 new drug abusers arrested in 2018, about two-thirds (64 per cent) were younger than 30.
There were also more repeat drug abusers arrested, with an increase to 2,072 last year from 1,842 in 2017 (12 per cent).
CNB attributed the rise in the number of abusers arrested to an increase in the number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and methamphetamine abusers.
"Notably, the production and trafficking of methamphetamine have increased to alarming levels, and the market for new psychoactive substances continues to evolve," said CNB.
The drugs seized in 2018 had an estimated street value of about S$6.65 million.
Methamphetamine, heroin and NPS were the three most commonly abused drugs in 2018.
CNB ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS
Together with the Singapore Police Force and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, CNB conducted 19 island-wide operations targeting drug traffickers and abusers in 2018.
"We dismantled 26 drug syndicates, and worked closely with other Home Team agencies to conduct close to 1,600 operations targeting drug traffickers and abusers across Singapore, including at our land, air and sea checkpoints to intercept drugs entering Singapore," said CNB director Ng Ser Song.
The regional drug situation remains of great concern, it said, adding that methamphetamine production and trafficking in Southeast Asia rose to an all-time high in 2018.
"Close proximity to such large scale drug production regions places Singapore at a high risk of being a target for drug trafficking syndicates," CNB said.
The bureau conducted 19 joint operations with its international counterparts to tackle the transnational activities of drug syndicates.
AMENDMENTS TO MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT
CNB highlighted that recent changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) has criminalised acts which facilitate or promote drug use, as well as acts of endangerment, such as exposing a child to drugs or drug paraphernalia, or permitting a young person to abuse drugs.
Parents of youth drug abusers under CNB’s supervision order will also need to attend the counselling sessions with their child.
"The changes to the MDA also strengthens the rehabilitation regime for drug abusers to provide them with more support to break the cycle of addiction and reintegrate into society," said CNB.
"Those who only abuse drugs, without facing other concurrent charges, will be channelled to rehabilitation if they admit to drug abuse. Drug abusers who face other concurrent charges will continue to be charged and be liable for sentencing to long-term imprisonment, if applicable."
CNB also stepped up outreach efforts to youths to raise awareness on the harm of drug abuse, encourage them to stay away from drugs, and it established a network of youth anti-drug advocates.