On Assignment
R’s Journey
A former cannabis abuser and drug supervisee shares his story.

Home Team News Rs Journey 01
PHOTOS: Desmond Ang

On 10 December, Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, shared on Facebook an email that he’d received from a former cannabis abuser named “R”. 

R wanted to share his experiences after reading Minister Shanmugam’s response to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs’ decision to remove cannabis from the most tightly controlled category of narcotic drugs, which was passed by the narrowest of voting margins. This is R’s story.

It all started because of peer pressure. 

When his friends and then-girlfriend told him it was okay to abuse cannabis and offered him some, R, who was 21, knew little about the terrible cost it would carry. “If my girlfriend can do it, why can’t I?” he thought. 

So began R’s descent into drug abuse. 

Now 26, R recently completed a two-year supervisory regime for abusing cannabis. He was moved to share his experiences after reading about the vote to reschedule cannabis and how more and more people seemed to think that drug abuse comes with no repercussions. 

A First Arrest
R was first exposed to cannabis through his friends. “It severely impaired my ability to make sound decisions,” recalled R. “I lost track of time; what I was doing; what I ate. It got out of control.”

Caught for his drug offences during his National Service Days, R served a stint in the Detention Barracks. Upon his release, the friends who’d introduced him to cannabis returned, and his nightmare came back to life. “I tried to stop my habit after I was released, but relapsed,” he said. 

Desperate Days
Despite experiencing the consequences of abusing cannabis, R persisted in his habit. “A friend of mine was arrested; he’d become dazed and confused after abusing drugs in broad daylight at a shopping centre,” recalled R. “The media say that cannabis is a gateway drug, and they aren’t wrong. On TV, everyone was doing it, and it’s portrayed as something normal. If they can smoke weed, then I thought, ‘Why can’t I?’”

Home Team News Rs Journey 02

Having started with cannabis, R also began abusing New Psychoactive Substances. To feed his habit, he’d give whatever money he had to his dealer. “I knew I had to stop, but I didn’t know when that day would come. I just hoped my addiction would go away by itself.” 

A Second Arrest
In 2018, R was caught at a traffic roadblock on his birthday, as he and his friends were on their way to buy drugs. “One of my friends was found with drugs on him, and we all had to go for urine tests,” he recalled. “That was when the officers found drugs in my system, as I’d abused cannabis several days before.” 

R was emplaced on a two-year urine supervision regime, but he struggled to keep up initially. After his second arrest, he had lost his job and had to cover liabilities and damages, and the stress overwhelmed him.

After speaking to his supervision officer, R realised that he needed to pull himself together. “Drugs had already ruined my life for five years,” he said. “This was a chance for me to right my wrongs and change for the better.”

Conquering His Demons
R has since remained clean from drugs, and now works as a delivery man. While there are triggers now and then that remind him of the depths of his addiction, he’s committed to conquering his personal demons. 

“When I’m making deliveries now, I sometimes come across places where I abused drugs in the past,’ he shared. “I can’t avoid those places, but I’ve committed to not abusing drugs again. As for my former friends, they’ve either been caught or have stopped calling me, after I asked when they were going to change.”

Looking to the Future
Having reflected on his past, R has discovered new interests, one of which prompted him to reach out to Minister Shanmugam earlier this month. 

“I do a lot more reading now, of the news and so on,” he explained. “It’s a risky move by the United Nations to reschedule cannabis; it’s being pushed for profit. I had the same ideology once, but was derailed by my bad choices. That's why I sent that email – I understand what drug abusers face, and I wanted to share my experiences.”

Taking his rehabilitation one step at a time, R has also rediscovered qualities that drug abuse took away from him for far too long. “I have more time to spend with genuine friends now, and I’ve even started keeping a fish-tank at home,” he shared. “I find that I’m a lot more relaxed now, and at peace.” 


Singapore’s Zero-Tolerance Approach Towards Drugs 
On 2 December, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs approved a recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) that was voted by the narrowest of margins to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from its Schedule IV classification of dangerous drugs. The international control measures for cannabis and cannabis resin remain unchanged as they continue to be listed in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention.
 
Read the Singapore Government’s position on the WHO’s recommendations and Singapore’s National Statement

MHA Infographic - Harms of Cannabis 01
INFOGRAPHIC: MHA

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.


  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 18 December 2020
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