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New drug abusers form 'high' proportion of those arrested in 2021: CNB

Of the new drug abusers arrested last year, 60 per cent were under 30 years old, said the Central Narcotics Bureau.

New drug abusers form 'high' proportion of those arrested in 2021: CNB

Ten packets of Ice were seized from a residential unit at Bukit Batok Street 52 in a raid on Jan 11, 2022. (Photo: CNB)

SINGAPORE: A "high" proportion of drug abusers arrested in 2021 were new abusers, with the majority of them under 30 years old, said the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) on Thursday (Feb 10).

According to its 2021 statistics report, the bureau arrested 2,724 drug abusers, an 11 per cent decrease from the 3,056 arrested the previous year.

“This decrease was likely due to restricted social interactions arising from COVID-19 measures,” said the bureau.

About 34 per cent of those arrested last year were new drug abusers, of whom 60 per cent were under 30, the report showed. The number of new drug abusers arrested fell by 19 per cent to 937 in 2021.

The proportion of new drug abusers was a “worrying trend”, said CNB.

Methamphetamine, heroin, and cannabis were the three most commonly abused drugs in Singapore. About 92 per cent of those arrested abused at least one of these three drugs.

Of the new abusers arrested in 2021, about 76 per cent had used meth, the report showed.

There is also a “trend of increased trafficking” of meth in 2021, which is “of concern”, said CNB.

Of the total number of drug abusers arrested, about 17 per cent were people who abused more than one type of drug.

The number of repeat drug offenders arrested fell by 6 per cent to 1,787 in 2021, according to the report.

Due to the rounding of figures, the numbers in the pie chart do not add up to 100 per cent (Infographic: CNB)

CANNABIS SEIZURES JUMP 144%

Last year, CNB conducted enforcement operations that resulted in the dismantling of 25 drug syndicates. The drugs seized in 2021 were estimated to have a street value of about S$18.16 million.

Seizures of heroin rose by 31 per cent to 95.45kg in 2021, from 72.70kg in 2020. Cannabis seizures saw a 144 per cent jump to 105.18kg in 2021, up from 43.10kg the year before.

Seizures of crystalline methamphetamine, commonly known as Ice, saw a 3 per cent increase to 48.11kg in 2021, from 46.81kg in 2020.  

According to the report, the number of Chinese, Malay and Indian drug abusers decreased last year, with the proportion by ethnic group similar to the previous year.

A chart depicting the total number of drug abusers by ethnic groups. (Graph: CNB)

About 33 per cent of all abusers arrested last year were below 30 – those in the 20 to 29 age group continued to form the largest group.

There was also a 16 per cent increase in the number of drug abusers in their 50s.

A chart depicting the total number of drug abusers by age groups. (Graph: CNB)

“The fundamental principle underlying Singapore’s approach against drugs is to prevent harm to our people and society in the first place,” said CNB.

“We believe that this is much more effective than letting the drug problem fester and grow to a magnitude of harm that cannot be eradicated and can only be reduced.”

SUPPLY MAY HAVE OUTSTRIPPED DEMAND IN REGION

Singapore is located “at the doorstep of the world’s largest drug producing region”, said the bureau.

Adding that the country is “vulnerable” to developments in the regional drug situation, CNB noted that the wholesale prices of crystal meth have fallen despite increases in quantities seized.

This suggests that supply may have outstripped demand in the region.

“On the international front, there is continued push for more liberal drug control policies by various parties with vested interests,” said the bureau.

“In particular, the cannabis legalisation movement has led to a substantial disconnect between real risks and public perception."

Singapore "remains steadfast” in adopting a comprehensive drug control strategy that tackles both drug supply and demand. A zero-tolerance stand against drugs is the “best approach” for the country, said CNB.

Preventive drug education, tough anti-drug laws, rigorous enforcement, international engagement and the rehabilitation and aftercare of drug offenders are part of this strategy.

Education remains the “first line of defence”, said the bureau.

“It aims to reduce the demand for drugs by educating youths on the dangers of drug dependence, and engaging community partners and the public to sustain a national consensus of zero tolerance against drug abuse,” added CNB.

“Through effective public education, we aim to stem drug abuse upstream before it causes more social problems and misery to drug abusers and their families.”

Source: CNA/mi(ta)

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