Shanmugam: More challenges in combating drug use as neighbouring countries change policies
City-state will set up new Inter-Ministry Committee on Drug Prevention for Youths to address drug use among youths
SINGAPORE—Singapore is expected to face increased challenges in its efforts to combat drug use, as neighbouring countries Thailand and Malaysia make significant changes to their drug policies.
Thailand has legalised cannabis, while Malaysia has abolished mandatory death penalties for drug trafficking.
Speaking on the sidelines of his visit to Pertapis Halfway House on Tuesday (2nd May), Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam acknowledged the challenges ahead.
"The challenges are increasing, and the challenges are not only regional. If you look at one aspect, there is a lot of wrong, false information out there; narratives which are driven by profit motives, which seek to mislead on drugs, including on cannabis," he said.
New inter-ministry committee to look into drug use among youth
Amid such challenges, Singapore is setting up a new Inter-Ministry Committee on Drug Prevention for Youths to address drug use among youth.
The committee, which will start in the third quarter of this year, will involve the Education, Social and Family Development, Culture, Community and Youth, Defence, Communications and Information, Health ministries, as well as the People's Association. It will be chaired by Shanmugam.
Speaking about the committee's objectives, Shanmugam said, "We will try and see how we can focus on drug prevention efforts in homes, through parents; in schools; in the community; in national service. We’ve got to approach this from many different aspects."
He also expressed concern over the results of a recent survey by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), which found that drug abuse often occurs in homes and that the average age of drug abuse initiation is 16.
The recent survey by IMH sought to investigate the prevalence of illicit drug use in Singapore. A total of 6,509 Singapore residents - consisting of Singapore citizens and permanent residents aged between 15 to 65 years - were surveyed between April 2021 and July 2022.
The results showed that 41.8 per cent of abusers started consuming drugs before the age of 18. An estimated 0.7 per cent of Singapore residents had abused drugs in the past year.
Commenting on the reasons for drug use, the IMH study found that curiosity was the most common factor, with peer pressure and the belief that drugs could help with personal problems also cited.
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