Wednesday 28 January 2015

Community Rehabilitation Centre: New rehab centre opens for young drug offenders

Housing young offenders
By Amir Hussain, The Straits Times, 27 Jan 2015

YOUNG male drug offenders now have a dedicated centre to help them kick their addictive habits while carrying on with school or work outside.

The Community Rehabilitation Centre (CRC), which provides a structured living environment for youths aged 16 to 20, also teaches residents to reject negative peer influence. The centre was officially launched by Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

The facility in Jamaica Road, which opened last May, is the first housing unit for young male inmates located away from Changi Prison Complex. It can house up to 50 first-time drug offenders who have completed a short stint at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre.

The CRC was a recommendation of a task force on drugs formed in October 2011, as a step-down arrangement for young, first-time offenders.

To tackle the growing problem of drug use among Singapore youth, a multi-agency task force was also formed to study the issue last November.

In the decade preceding 2013, the number of arrested drug abusers under 20 rose by an average of 7 per cent a year. For those aged between 20 and 29, the figure was 11 per cent.

While latest Central Narcotics Bureau data released yesterday shows that the number of abusers below 30 who were arrested last year was about the same as in 2013, two-thirds of new drug abusers were under 30. Mr Masagos, who co-chairs the task force, said: "It is an ongoing challenge to keep our young people away from drugs amid more liberal attitudes towards drugs."

One former CRC resident who has completed his six-month residential phase and is now on six-month home leave, said the centre's programmes made him resolve not to return to drugs.

The 19-year-old, who only wanted to be known as "Ree", recounted how a role-playing exercise showed him how a drug abuser became unresponsive to the outside world. He said: "We would criticise him: 'You're no use to society', not (initially) realising that we're referring to ourselves. It made us realise that society looks at us like that."

Drug abuse among youth on the rise
Total arrests fall, but two-thirds of new abusers nabbed are below 30
By Danson Cheong and  Amir Hussain, The Straits Times, 27 Jan 2015

MORE young people are getting hooked on drugs even as the drug situation here shows signs of improving.

According to latest statistics from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), there were 3,085 drug abusers arrested last year, 14 per cent fewer than the 3,581 in 2013.

The value of drugs seized also declined dramatically - amounting to $8.14 million last year compared to more than $20 million the year before.

But despite the decrease, two-thirds of the 1,058 new abusers arrested were below the age of 30. Five years ago, this group made up only about half of the number of new abusers.

The CNB highlighted this growing problem in a statement yesterday. "More of our young people are trying drugs," said its director Ng Ser Song.

The data tallies with what some voluntary welfare organisations here are noticing - that abusers are starting to experiment with drugs at a younger age.

"Even as recently as two years ago, we would see some abusers at 15 or 16 years old. Now we are seeing them as young as 13 or 14," said Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.

Dr Balhetchet said this was probably because information on drugs and where to get them is readily available on the Internet.

"Then their peers talk about it and encourage them to experiment," she said.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said methamphetamine or "Ice" is being pitched to young people by pushers as a drug that is hard to detect and is benign.

"Ice has been marketed to our young... as beneficial (to their needs), to stay slim, study long hours and so forth," said Mr Masagos, who chairs a multi-agency task force tackling growing drug abuse among youth.

But methamphetamine abuse can cause severe psychoses. Long-term use can also cause brain damage. It was the drug of choice for new abusers last year - with 69 per cent addicted to it.

And despite the amount of methamphetamine seized dropping by about 72 per cent, the authorities found more of it being set aside for the local market - just over 9kg of the 12.41kg seized, enough to sustain 1,200 abusers for a month.

Methamphetamine and heroin abusers made up 92 per cent of the arrests last year.

This is also the first year that New Psychoactive Substances - a range of synthetic drugs which include "bath salts" and "meow meow", a popular alternative to ecstasy - have been included in the annual release, with 470 tablets and 114.36g of the drugs seized.

Mr Vikram Nair, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said tough enforcement must continue. "The CNB needs to keep tabs on schools and reach out to places where the youth are at. Family service centres should continue to reach out to at-risk youth and keep them from falling into bad habits because of bad company," said Mr Nair, an MP for Sembawang GRC.

Step up efforts to spread anti-drug message

IT IS alarming and concerning that more young people are getting addicted to drugs, and that drug abusers are getting younger ("Drug abuse among youth on the rise"; last Tuesday).

Schools need to educate the young about the implications of drug abuse. They should raise awareness of the underlying factors leading to abuse, such as peer pressure and the influence of the media and Internet.

With awareness, potential drug abusers can receive early help through counselling and outreach services.

The authorities, such as the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), need to step up checks and raids to flush out drug peddlers, to curb the availability of drugs.

It is also important that the CNB continue to partner schools with at-risk youngsters, and bring back campaigns to promote the anti-drug message.

Family service centres should closely monitor at-risk youngsters and give them support by helping them with their problems so they do not turn to drugs as an escape.

Having a dedicated centre to help young drug offenders kick the habit while carrying on with school or work is a useful initiative ("Housing young offenders"; last Tuesday).

Due to the stigma attached to drug abuse and addiction, it is important to give offenders the chance to get help anonymously.

With stringent enforcement, legislation, positive encouragement and support, potential drug offenders can stay away from drugs and pursue their passion or talent in life.

Darren Chan Keng Leong
ST Forum, 3 Feb 2015

Measures narcotics bureau has taken in the fight against drugs

THE Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) thanks Mr Darren Chan Keng Leong ("Step up efforts to spread anti-drug message"; Tuesday) for his concern about youth and drug abuse.

CNB will continue with both preventive drug education and intensive enforcement efforts against all drug activities.

CNB recognises the importance of engaging our youth and involving them in the anti-drug cause.

To get youth on board, CNB has been partnering, and will continue to partner, educational institutions in rolling out various preventive drug education (PDE) programmes and activities for youth of all ages.

We also collaborate with community partners, self-help groups and voluntary welfare organisations for preventive drug education outreach to youth under their charge.

For more effective outreach, CNB organises a mix of public events, such as exhibitions, and targeted outreach programmes for specific audiences.

Our aim is to arm young people with the relevant anti-drug information, including drugs' harmful effects and addictive nature, and build up their resilience against drugs.

Parents are important partners in this fight. They can visit CNB's website to access anti-drug knowledge that they can share with their children.

CNB will also continue its intensive drug enforcement operations on the ground, to weed out drug activities. At the same time, CNB takes a stern view against those who seek to influence young people into committing drug offences.

Amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act were in effect as of May 1, 2013, for example, to provide for enhanced punishment for trafficking to a young or vulnerable person.

On rehabilitation and reintegration of young abusers, CNB works closely with various agencies, including the Singapore Prison Service.

The Community Rehabilitation Centre for Young Abusers was introduced to provide young abusers with a more supportive rehabilitative environment.

The fight against the drug scourge cannot be CNB's alone. There is an important role for the community, especially parents, to play in guarding against drugs and drug abuse, so that our youth do not waste their life fighting a lifelong addiction.

CNB is also part of the multi-agency Task Force on Youths and Drugs set up in November last year to tackle the youth drug problem.

Together, CNB, the community and our partners must stand fast on the zero-tolerance approach towards drugs and drug abuse.

Gillian Ong (Ms)
Central Narcotics Bureau
ST Forum, 5 Feb 2015

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