2,537 drug abusers were arrested in 2008 as compared to 2,211 in 2007, an increase of 15%. Repeat abusers continued to form the majority at 58%, with 64% of them liable for long term imprisonment.
2. Despite being the majority, the number of repeat abusers had dropped by 13%, while the number of new abusers arrested had doubled.
Drug abusers arrested by drug type
3. Since the classification of buprenorphine as a controlled drug in the Misuse of Drugs Act in August 2006, there has been a shift in the composition of abusers arrested. The percentage of abusers who abused buprenorphine fell from 38% in 2007 to 18% in 2008 while the proportion who abused heroin increased from 31% in 2007 to 48% in 2008.
4. Amongst the heroin and buprenorphine abusers, 82% are repeat abusers, out of which 69% are liable for long-term imprisonment. As with the previous years, the figures show that the heroin and buprenorphine abuse problem is largely confined to a group of recalcitrant abusers. These abusers, who are repeat abusers, are not unknown to CNB. With focused and targeted operations, these abusers will eventually be taken off the streets to prevent them from contaminating others with their drug habit.
Drug abusers arrested by age group
5. In terms of age group, abusers across most age groups registered increases, with the most significant increase amongst those in the 40 and above age group. In terms of composition, this age group formed the majority at 44%.
Drug abusers arrested by ethnic group
6. Abusers of all ethnic groups registered increases in 2008 as compared to 2007. In view of this, the continued support from the community and concerted efforts from the self-help groups and stakeholders remain a critical component in fighting the drug problem.
7. In terms of seizures, more heroin was seized in 2008 as compared to 2007. CNB had successfully intercepted several seizures of heroin at wholesale level before they reached the retail levels, such as the significant seizure of 10 kg of heroin in February and two seizures of approximately 5 kg of heroin each in June and November respectively. In addition, CNB also seized approximately 11kg of heroin No. 4 which were meant for the overseas market in June 2008.
Containment of the inhalant abuse situation
8. Moving on to the inhalant abuse situation, the rise in inhalant abuse has tapered in 2008 with a 7% decrease in the number of abusers arrested. 602 inhalant abusers were arrested in 2008 as compared to 644 arrested in 2007. In addition, the number of new inhalant abusers arrested registered a drop of 8%.
(a) Inhalant abusers aged 20 and below continue to form the bulk
9. Although youths continued to form the majority of inhalant abusers arrested at 66%, the numbers arrested had dropped by 10% as compared to 2007
Garnering cooperation of community and commitment from stakeholders
10. CNB continues to tackle this issue from both the demand and supply side. CNB has stepped up and sustained its preventive education talks at schools to reach out to the general student population. In addition, CNB has also collaborated with the National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) to launch an inhalant abuse media campaign in December 2008. The campaign includes a series of filmlets and outdoor poster-ads depicting real letters from real people relating their experiences with inhalant abuse, through which viewers are reminded that when you sniff glue, it's not only you who suffers.
11. To address the supply side of the problem, CNB officers have made many site visits to advise shopkeepers to exercise caution in the sale of any inhalant products, especially to young persons. Since August 2007, CNB has visited more than 350 shops. CNB had also been visiting shops that came to its attention for having sold inhalant products to suspected abusers. Errant shopkeepers who persist in selling inhalant products to inhalant abusers can face a fine up to $5,000, a jail term up to 2 years, or both, if convicted under the Intoxicating Substances Act.
12. CNB has also gone beyond mounting enforcement action and preventive education in fighting the inhalant abuse problem. Recognising that the problem was a multi-faceted one, CNB had strengthened its working relationships with various agencies and stakeholders
CNB presses on with vigorous enforcement and forges partnership with agencies and the community to keep the drug and inhalant abuse situation under control
13. CNB remains vigilant in keeping a close watch on the drug situation. CNB will press on with its vigorous enforcement efforts to take drug abusers out of circulation, so as to prevent them from contaminating the community with their drug habit. CNB will also sustain its close cooperation with foreign counterparts to stem the flow of drugs into Singapore, and work closely with our partner agencies and the community to keep the drug abuse situation in Singapore under control.
14. On the inhalant abuse situation, the enhanced measures and tougher approach adopted since September 2007 have contained the inhalant situation and prevented any further rise in inhalant abusers in 2008.
15. Nevertheless, the easy availability of inhalant products and its common use for household and commercial purpose means that enforcement effort alone will not completely control the problem. This underscores the importance of sustained inter-agency collaboration and continued community support. CNB will continue to work closely with the various stakeholders to keep the drug and inhalant abuse situation under control.
Central Narcotics Bureau
29 Jan 2009
(Updated Jan 2012)