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Misuse of Drugs Act to be amended to better regulate new psychoactive substances

Misuse of Drugs Act to be amended to better regulate new psychoactive substances

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

SINGAPORE: The Misuse of Drugs Act will be amended this year to regulate new psychoactive substances (NPS) based on their potential to produce a psychoactive effect, Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim on Monday (Mar 1).  

Such substances are intended to mimic the effects of controlled drugs, said the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) on its website, adding that they have unknown toxicology effects and are as addictive and harmful as controlled drugs.

These substances are currently listed either individually or by their core molecular structure and substitution patterns in the Misuse of Drugs Act. 

“Currently, because of how NPS are listed in the Misuse of Drugs Act there may be a time lag from detecting to listing a novel NPS,” said Associate Professor Faishal.

Amending the Act to regulate such substances based on their potential to produce a psychoactive effect will allow the CNB to take swifter enforcement action, he said.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim speaking in Parliament on Mar 1, 2021.

The CNB identified new psychoactive substances as among the three most commonly abused drugs in Singapore last year, alongside methamphetamine and heroin.

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

REHABILITATION AND REINTEGRATION

Speaking on the issue of strengthening efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate drug offenders, Associate Professor Faishal noted that the Enhanced Drug Rehabilitation Regime (EDRR) was introduced in 2014 for first- and second-time drug abusers.

This aligned rehabilitative interventions to the abusers’ risk of re-offending and level of dependency on drugs.

“In 2019, the drug rehabilitation regime was further enhanced to commit third-time and subsequent drug abusers who are not charged with any other criminal offences to the DRC (Drugs Rehabilitation Centre), instead of being charged in court and liable for long-term imprisonment,” said Assoc Prof Faishal.

“A recent Prisons’ study revealed that the two-year recidivism rate for drug abusers who went through the EDRR was 8 percentage points lower than those who did not,” he said, adding that the effectiveness of the 2019 enhancements would be assessed once sufficient data is available.

Speaking in Malay, Assoc Prof Faishal said the Malay-Muslim community has made “significant progress” in combating drugs.

He noted a decrease in the two-year relapse rate of Malay drug abusers, from 42 per cent for those released in 2011 to about 30 per cent for the 2018 release cohort.

He pointed to efforts to provide support for inmates and their families, such as the Family and Inmates Through-care Assistance Haven office (FITRAH), led by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS).

Besides this, there are also groups of ex-offenders who have banded together to support one another, he said.

“This year, the CARE (Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders) Network will establish a framework to support such groups, which can serve as pro-social networks for ex-offenders,” he said.

The network works to coordinate aftercare rehabilitation and reintegration services.

“We will continue to work together with the various community groups to strengthen our outreach and reintegration efforts,” he said.

READ: IN FOCUS: Breaking the cycle of drug addiction passing from parent to child

ENHANCING EMPLOYABILITY

Assoc Prof Faishal also pointed to efforts to improve the employability of ex-offenders, such as through Yellow Ribbon Singapore’s (YRSG) TAP (Train, Attach and Place) and Grow initiative.

Under the initiative, partner industries and training providers offer employment and continuous upgrading through a work-study arrangement after inmates are released.

Last year, YRSG partnered organisations to offer training in media and precision engineering, he said.

“This year, TAP and Grow will be expanded to the Logistics and Infocomm sectors. Training facilities for these sectors will be set up in prison this year,” he said.

Under the Jobs Growth Incentive that was launched in September 2020 ex-offenders are eligible for the higher tier of wage support. This has expanded the employment opportunities available to ex-offenders, Assoc Prof Faishal said.

“Inmates and ex-offenders with strong family support have a better chance of successful reintegration. Family members may also need support during their loved one’s incarceration,” he added.

He said the Singapore Prison Service and the Ministry for Social and Family Development will implement a “revised workflow to strengthen coordination and information exchange” with family service centres (FSCs) on inmates who have family members in need of support.

“This will ensure timely access to FSC resources,” he said.

“Besides training volunteers who work with inmates, Prisons will extend training opportunities to those who assist inmates' families,” he added.

“Together, our efforts to better support families will also help to reduce intergenerational offending.”

Source: CNA/az

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