Pubdate: Fri, 17 Mar 2000
Source: Strait Times, The (Singapore)
Author: Chong Chee Kin


But The Situation Is Under Control, Says CNB Head.

EVEN as the abuse of traditional drugs, such as cannabis, opium and heroin,
showed a significant decline last year, the threat from synthetic drugs
reared its head higher.

Figures released by the Central Narcotics Bureau on Wednesday showed that
the number of opium addicts fell by more than 70 per cent -- from 40 in 1998
to just 11 last year. A big drop of 46 per cent was also seen in the number
of cannabis addicts -- from 438 in 1998 to 235 last year. And there was a
16-per-cent fall in the number of heroin abusers arrested -- from 3,727 in
1998 to 3,142 last year.

However, arrests of Ecstasy abusers went up -- from 180 in 1998 to 269 last
year, with 17,232 tablets seized.

This compares with 2,177 tablets the year before. The number of Ice addicts
has been increasing too since its emergence here four years ago. The figure
grew from only five in 1996 to a high of 155 last year. Seizure of the drug,
however, dropped from 1.7 kg in 1998 to 1.3 kg last year. As for Ketamine, a
new drug that emerged only last year, 14 such addicts were arrested by the

In all, CNB seized about $8 million worth of drugs last year, with heroin
accounting for nearly $6 million of the amount.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Wednesday, the director of the bureau, Mr
Tan Seck Kang, said that the rise in the abuse of synthetic drugs was no
cause for alarm, as the situation was well under control.

Taking Ice abusers as an example, he said: "Compared to other countries,
where the number of such abusers has doubled or tripled, the number of Ice
addicts here has been small and the increase is insignificant."

But he stressed the bureau's zero tolerance of drug abuse, and added that
CNB officers will spare no effort in going after drug offenders.

"Synthetic drugs are easy and cheap to produce, and they have been produced
in neighbouring countries," he said.

"There are always people who want to make illegal money and they will
smuggle these drugs in to sell them. It is our job to stop them."

Offering a profile of synthetic-drug abusers, Mr Tan said that they are
young and not well educated.

He said: "Most of them are Chinese men aged between 20 and 29.

"And they do not have a high level of education. The majority have only up
to primary or secondary education.

"They also hold low-paying jobs."