As rogue chemists play cat and mouse, MHA reviews laws to better tackle new psychoactive substances

As rogue chemists play cat and mouse, MHA reviews laws to better tackle new psychoactive substances

NPS powder seized Jul 16, 2019
NPS powder and NPS in "Butterfly" tobacco product packaging were seized in drug raids on Jul 16, 2019. (Photo:  Central Narcotics Bureau)

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Home Affairs is reviewing its laws to better deal with the rising threat of new psychoactive substances, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin said in Parliament on Monday (Mar 2).

This comes as rogue chemists swiftly produce new variants of such substances by changing their chemical structures, to avoid classification as Class A controlled drugs.

The trafficking, manufacture, import, export, possession or consumption of Class A controlled drugs constitute an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

“This poses a challenge to drug enforcement agencies in the world over," Mr Amrin said in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Committee of Supply debate.

“MHA is reviewing our laws to stay ahead of drug trends. Details will be announced in due course.”

READ: More new drug abusers arrested in 2019: CNB

READ: More admitted to drug rehab centre in 2019, driven by changes in law aimed at reducing relapse

The move comes after statistics show new psychoactive substances are the third-most commonly abused drug, behind methamphetamine and heroin, and the second-most common among new abusers. 

Mr Amrin said the substances were “hardly known” in Singapore a decade ago.

"NPS (new psychoactive substances) mimic the psychoactive effects of traditional drugs," Mr Amrin said, adding that the number of such substances detected worldwide has increased by more than seven times in a decade, from 126 in 2009 to 892 in 2018.

The Central Narcotics Bureau has been proactively listing these substances in the Misuse of Drugs Act since 2010, and further amended the Act in 2013 to enact the Fifth Schedule.

Substances under the Fifth Schedule can be seized to restrict circulation while research and industry consultations are conducted.

READ: 24 new psychoactive substances listed as Class A controlled drugs from December

READ: 24 arrested, nearly 2kg of 'mushroom' seized in drug raids

Last December, the Central Narcotics Bureau listed 24 new psychoactive substances as Class A controlled drugs, and another six in the Fifth Schedule. The agency stated that many of these substances have been reported in overseas journals to have no lawful medical use.

“More than ever, we need strict laws to stay ahead of drug trends, robust enforcement and effective preventive drug education,” Mr Amrin stated.

Source: CNA/hw(cy)