More under-16s to be arrested for drug use in Singapore by 2024: Faishal

More under-16s to be arrested for drug use in Singapore by 2024: Faishal

SINGAPORE – A new drug testing kit that provides near-instant results is being evaluated by authorities amid a rise in teenage drug abuse.

“In the first four months of 2024 alone, 16 drug offenders under the age of 16 have been arrested, compared to 24 such arrests in the whole of 2023,” Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said at the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) 2024 Work Plan Seminar on July 10.

“These trends show the changing attitudes of some of our young people toward drugs,” he said in his opening remarks at the CNB’s anti-drug efforts seminar, noting that the nearly 600 participants included representatives from the Department of Education, anti-drug advocates and volunteers.

Associate Professor Faishal said there were more and more cases of young people getting involved in trafficking and drug addiction, and they were getting younger.

He also highlighted a greater acceptance of drug use among young people, citing a recent survey in which 79% of young people, compared to 91% of adults, agreed that cannabis should remain illegal in Singapore.

According to Professor Faishal, “this is largely due to the fact that our young people are exposed to more misinformation online and from foreign jurisdictions that perpetuate a benevolent view of drugs and therefore advocate a more relaxed stance on drugs.”

Ms Carol Loi, 53, a family coach who attended the seminar at the Singapore Expo, said even if children momentarily stray into the world of drug addiction, smoking or vaping, parents should never lose hope but continue to engage them.

“Parents need to equip themselves with the right information to start conversations with their children about the dangers of drug abuse,” the co-founder of SGFamilies, a grassroots movement for parents that organises parent support group discussions, events and conferences, told The Straits Times.

The 2022 Health and Lifestyle Survey conducted by the Institute of Mental Health found that the average age of onset of drug addiction in Singapore was 15.9 years, with many people consuming the drugs at home.

Ms Joycelyn Yeo, head of the student management and leadership department at Xinmin Primary School, said the school was trying to prevent students from experimenting with drugs.

“Due to (children’s) mobility, peer influence and interaction, and sharing of information on social media, they could be exposed to smoking and even vaping, which could lead to drug addiction,” she said.

In his speech, Mr Faishal also paid tribute to CNB officers, saying: “It is a dangerous and high-risk job, but our officers are clear about their mission to keep Singapore drug-free, and are passionate about their participation in this effort and in the CNB.”

There is now an instant hair test (IHT) kit, which can tell almost immediately whether a person has taken drugs, instead of the 30 days it takes for current methods, which CNB, the Singapore Prison Service and the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) are evaluating.