The Rise Of Drug Addiction In Singapore Criminology Essay

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In the recent years, there has been an increase in the number of drug abusers in Singapore being arrested. Merely in 2010 to 2011, there had been an increase of 15 from 2887 to 3326. To cope with this, the Central Narcotic Bureau (CNB) had been aware of the regional drug situation especially in the South East Asia region. In effect to the changing situation, the CNB had continued to strengthen the enforcement of law on both the suppliers and addicts of drug to minimise the rise of drug addiction in Singapore. Under the Minister-of-state (Home Affairs) Masagos Zulkifli, the CNB is working in collaboration with the Task Force on Drugs to provide pertinent and effective drug preventive methods in counter to the drug related problems. (Central Narcotics Bureau, 2012)

In Singapore, Heroin and methamphetamine are known to be the most frequently abused drugs which consisted up to 93% of those drug abusers being caught by the CNB. Furthermore, there are more methamphetamine abusers as compared to other drugs among first-timers that are being caught. This rising use of methamphetamine among first-timers depicts the focus point of the problem for the CNB to tackle. (Central Narcotics Bureau, 2012)

This paper aims to study on the rise of drug addiction in Singapore. It covers the reasons for the rise in addiction to drug and the supply of drugs that contributes to the rise of drug addiction in Singapore. Moreover, it looks at the preventions and solutions to this trend.

Reasons for the rise in addiction to drug in Singapore

Worsening regional drug situation

According to the United Nations World Drug Report 2011, just in 2009 itself, the amount of heroin detained in Asia consist about 56% of the total amount of heroin being seized all around the world by relevant authorities. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011) This 42 metric tonnes worth of heroin will be valued at US$4.6 billion if it will to be successfully exported and sold in the black market for distribution all over the world. Beside heroin, the amount of methamphetamine detained had also shot up by 36% in just 5 years from 2005. With this, Asia was marked as a trafficking and manufacturing hub for methamphetamine and opium, the main ingredients for heroin.(Central Narcotics Bureau, 2012) Therefore, with many sustainable sources of drug available just around every corner of Asia, Singapore could easily be one of the victims of those harmful drugs. Hence, drug addicts and even first-timers could get their hands on those highly addictive drugs at ease.

Easing of mandatory death penalty

The death penalty in the Singapore criminal justice system has continuously acted as a competent deterrence against drug addicts and drug traffickers. As part of the Singapore penal code, it has functioned well in keeping the local drug situation regulated. On July 2011, all executions were put on hold due to the review of the mandatory death penalty. In result of the review, adjustment of the mandatory death penalty was made with the addition of two distinct conditions. Meeting these two conditions simultaneously, will relieve the convict from immediate death penalty without the judgement from the court. (Ramesh & Saad, 2012)

These conditions are: firstly, the trafficker must have only played the role of courier, and must not have been involved in any other activity related to the supply or distribution of drugs; secondly, discretion will only apply if having satisfied the first requirement, either the trafficker has cooperated with the Central Narcotics Bureau in a substantive way, or he has a mental disability which substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act. (Ramesh & Saad, 2012)

However, with the amendment of the mandatory death penalty, many have voiced their concerns. MPs like Mr Edwin Tong, a member of parliament of Moulmein-Kallang GRC, felt that the review of the death penalty could be easily mistaken by the public as a softening standpoint by the government. (Yng, 2012) With the review of the mandatory death penalty, drug traffickers could escape the death penalty by exploiting these conditions through the provision of information on the drug syndicate they are working under. (Hussain, 2012) Hence, this will reduce the effectiveness in deterring drug traffickers and addicts.

Irrelevancy of law policies

Supply of drugs that contributes to the rise of drug addiction

Drug sources (Where are the drugs coming from)

Asia is known for its core production of opium, most notably Afghanistan and Myanmar, the two biggest opium-producing nations in the world. Opium is one of the key ingredients used in heroin, the drug that is most commonly abused in Singapore. Just in 2010 itself, the production of opium in merely Asia dominate the world heroin and opium market by 87%. This far exceeded the total amount of opium produced by the rest of the world. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011)

Another drug that contributes to the rise of drug addiction in Singapore is the abuse of methamphetamine, the second most commonly abused drug after heroin. In South-East Asia, the regional location of Singapore, was found with a high convergence of methamphetamine productions. Appallingly, neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Philippines and Myanmar are part of this manufacturing of methamphetamine. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011) With drug sources available just across the causeway, the only perceptible obstacle to prevent the entry of those drugs is the barrier from the Singapore judiciary system.

Drug trafficker (Who get them here)

Drug traffickers all around the world have been attempting varies methods to get their drug distributed to areas of demands. Many worked in international organizations and syndicates of large scale while others choose to work as individual or in a small team to have a larger profit spread. An organization that had been involving in the trafficking of drug into Singapore not long ago was the international West African drug syndicate. (Central Narcotics Bureau, 2009) On January 9th 2009, upon receiving intelligence, 1.14kg of type 4 heroin was found in a luggage of two Singaporeans at the Changi Budget Terminal. Both of which the 29 year old man and 27 year old woman were courier for the West African drug syndicate smuggling drug to Singapore. (Forss, 2009) Through investigation, a Nigerian man named Okemawalan Ugo Buchi was caught recruiting woman in Singapore to work as drug smugglers. He was a member of the West African drug syndicate and he revealed that the syndicate has connections with other countries like Spain, Brazil, Greece and China. (Channel NewsAsia, 2009)With syndicates operating at international scale, it is problematic and challenging for the CNB to clamp down the whole syndicate to have an absolute eradication of the drug sources.

Drug trafficking routes and methods (How they got here)

Trafficking drug from countries of production to the consumer markets such as Singapore requires the global and local drug syndicates to have well accessible connection in the worldwide network of itineraries and facilities. Although these routes are usually complex and tough for the law enforcers to track, there are still some common factors for choosing them. Factors such as geographical advantages, lack of secure checkpoints and draconian punishment from the legislation of a country make a location popular for drug traffickers to build up their transport route. Myanmar, Pakistan, India, Persian Gulf and Malaysia are a few of those identified countries with established routes of transportation to Singapore and other countries in the South-East Asia region. This area in the South-East Asia region is commonly known as the Golden Triangle. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011) Those established routes are never fixed and they are constantly changing. Often, efforts of law enforcers are in vain as they have been spending hefty amount of resources and time locating the transport route.

There are various ways for drug traffickers to get their drugs over the borders. However ultimately, all those drugs will have to pass through numerous checks. Hence to prevent detection, drug carriers customized special compartment in their luggage and travel bags. In extreme cases, shoes could also be used as one of their instrument to conceal those drugs. On July 3rd 2012, a South Korean man was pledged guilty of possessing illegal drugs by hiding it in his shoes at Changi Airport. This man, Kim Gwang Seok, was then sentenced to five years and nine months of prison term. (Soh, 2012)

Preventions and solutions for the rise of drug addiction in Singapore


Preventive Drug Education (PDE) is the very first safety net set to prevent youths from falling into the drug abuse society. By educating them on the right information and anti-drug message, the PDE can help to spread awareness to more youth that might be vulnerable of becoming a drug addict. An example of the CNB effort to spread the anti-drug message is the introduction of the mobile exhibition bus. The bus was named “Drug Buster Academy” and was a success among students. The mobility of the bus also allows it to cater to a wider audience based all around Singapore. (Central Narcotics Bureau, 2012) This provides an effective platform for kids and even adults to have fun and primarily to inculcate and circulate the messages through word-of-mouth to stop more people from becoming a drug addiction in Singapore.


The community plays an important role in keeping the society living with a purposeful drug-free life. With the support of the CNB, self-help groups together with community centres have started to promote anti-drug campaign through presenting anti-drug talks and exhibitions. Many souvenirs and leaflets with anti-drug messages are also given out during the festive seasons as a constant reminder to keep away from drugs. For instance, the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) who has been conducting frequent events such as the anti-drug discussion gathering and games for groups that are of certain risk of becoming drug addicts. (Central Narcotics Bureau, 2012) Besides promoting anti-drug abuse campaign among at-risk group, the community also extent their help to ex-drug convicts to inspire them to take on a new life and to resist drug in anyways possible. The effort by both the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) and the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) is to persuade ex-convicts to understand the consequences of taking illegal drug. (Central Narcotics Bureau, 2012) With a second chance given to them, hopefully ex-convicts could maintain their deterrence against drug.


To battle with the rise in drug addiction in Singapore, the law enforcers and the government must provide reliable and quick response to counter those criminal in this zero-tolerance drug nation. Together with the CNB and regional law enforcers from other countries, joint investigations were conducted. Just in 2011, the CNB had carry out at least 3 joint operations in partnership with their regional partners. Through those operations, it deepens the network between Singapore and regional countries forming a mutual exchange of information. With the additional knowledge on the drug supplies that cater to drug addicts particularly in Singapore, those information is considered to be of great help in busting drug syndicates. Besides operating together, the CNB was also given the chance to participle in two training programs organised by 16 other regional partners like the Australia Federal Police (AFP). (Central Narcotics Bureau, 2012) This provides a better understanding of how other countries deal with drug syndicates. With those invaluable experiences and technique, the CNB will develop in to a more reliant team regardless of technology or expertise.