Published: 25 June 2016
Mr Victor Lye, Chairman, National Council Against Drug Abuse,
Mr Winston Wong, Acting Director, Central Narcotics Bureau,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to join you today at the Anti-Drug Abuse Campaign 2016. This is an annual campaign organised by the National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) and CNB to commemorate World Drug Day.
Youth Drug Abuse Situation
2. The number of young drug abusers has been rising over the past years at a worrying rate. In 2015, we had 1,330 abusers aged below 30, the highest that we have seen in the last decade. We expect this trend to continue this year. In the first 4 months of this year, about 6% more abusers aged below 30 have been arrested compared to the same period last year.
3. I will speak on 3 strategies that we have to adopt to tackle this worrying trend: correcting misperceptions about drug abuse, partnering parents and educators in preventing youth drug abuse, and getting youths to take action to stay away from drugs.
Correcting misperceptions about drug abuse
4. First, we need to step up efforts to correct the growing misperception about drug abuse among youths. One reason for the increase in the number of young drug abusers is the perception that it is acceptable to take drugs and that certain drugs are not harmful and not addictive. This misperception has been reinforced by how the use of drugs has been portrayed in overseas media, especially on social media. There is also misinformation about drugs, which misleads our youths into believing that drugs like cannabis could be beneficial.
5. The truth is that drugs are harmful and addictive. The theme for this year's Anti-Drug Abuse Campaign reinforces this point: "Drugs are addictive. Escaping is hard. Don't Start". The Anti-Drug Escape Game is designed to let you solve puzzles illustrating the dangers of drug abuse and its after-effects. There are no consequences if you do not complete within the time limit in the game but in that time, I hope that you will learn about the dangers of drug abuse.
6. Drug abuse in real life is not fun. It is painful and has very real and dire consequences for the abusers and their families. One of this year's winning entries for CNB's Anti-Drug Video Competition, titled "Day 21", illustrates how difficult it is for the abusers to escape from drug addiction. For every post that you see online talking about how cool drugs are, remember that you are not seeing the pain that the abuser and their loved ones are going through.
7. Last year, we had experts in the Institute of Mental Health conduct a literature review on cannabis, where they studied more than 500 articles from reputable medical journals. Their findings were clear – cannabis is harmful and addictive, especially to young people. Half of the daily users of cannabis develop a dependence on cannabis. Cannabis also causes irreversible damage to your brain development, and even leads to a drop in IQ. The factsheet on the study is available at the registration counter. I encourage you to take the factsheet, find out more about the study and distribute the factsheet to your friends.
Partnering parents and educators in the preventing youth drug abuse
8. Second, we will partner parents and educators in our fight against drug abuse. The battle against drugs cannot be fought by CNB alone. Parents and educators shape the lives and values of our youths. CNB will work with them and provide them with the knowledge and resources so that together, we will keep youths away from drugs. Many parents are surprised to hear that the profile of drug abusers is changing. Now, many young cannabis abusers come from households with middle or high socioeconomic status, and are doing academically well in school. This means that all youths are susceptible to the risk of drug abuse, and it is an issue that we have to continue to be vigilant about.
9. We launched the Preventive Drug Education toolkit for educators and counsellors in November 2015. I am pleased to launch the Preventive Drug Education Information Brochure for parents, and toolkit for NS commanders today. The brochure and toolkit contain useful information such as tell-tale signs of drug abuse and how parents and NS commanders could help if they suspect their children or charges are abusing drugs. It also provides helplines they can call to seek assistance. The brochure contains bite-size information for easy retention and will be made available in the four main languages.
10. We will distribute this brochure to parents through schools from July onwards. We will also work with our community partners to distribute the brochure to more parents. One such event is the Super Storytastic event. From July to December, you can bring your child down to one of the 16 Super Storytastic events at NLB's public libraries island-wide, where you can learn about the harms of drugs through an interactive skit, and receive a copy of the anti-drug brochure.
11. I hope that the brochure will also provide parents with an opportunity to speak to their children on the harms of drugs. Don't wait till it's too late. Be the anti-drug champion at home.
Getting youths to take action to stay away from drugs
12. Third, we have to encourage our youths to take personal responsibility and take action to stay away from drugs. Keeping Singapore drug-free is a collective effort. While many partners are involved in our fight against drugs, our youths have a critical role in saying no to drugs. As part of this year's campaign, we displayed Message Walls at universities and polytechnics since April and collected over 1,000 anti-drug pledges from youths. The backdrop that you see behind me today is made up of these pledges. Every pledge signifies our youths' commitment to lead a drug-free lifestyle.
13. This is an encouraging start. I hope this will encourage our youths to commit to staying drug-free and play an active role in sharing the anti-drug message.
14. We must continue to do more and work together, to keep our youths away from drugs. All of us have a part to play in this effort – parents, educators, community partners, and our youths as well. Together, let us keep Singapore drug-free.
15. Thank you.