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A lifetime of being controlled by an addiction could have all started off with drug experimentation with a group of friends, just for the fun of it, without fully appreciating the dangers involved and how easy it is to become controlled by a drug. This article briefly highlights the problem of drug and inhalant abuse in Singapore and the dangers involved with it.

Drug and inhalant abuse

Since ancient times, man has extracted substances, largely from plants, for medicinal or other purposes. As our knowledge in science advanced, so did man's expertise in creating new drugs. Unfortunately, while many of these drugs have proved to be useful, they have also been abused or misused.

Drug: A chemical substance (from a pharmaceutical preparation or a natural source) that alters the existing process or state of the mind or body.

Inhalant: A psychoactive substance whose volatile vapours can be subject to abuse.

In Singapore, the drug scene has gradually changed from the rise of heroin addiction in the 1970s, to inhalant abuse in the mid 1980s and to the emergence and abuse of designer drugs like 'ice' (methamphetamine hydrochloride) and 'ecstasy' (methylenedioxy methamphetamine) in the 1990s and 2000s. According to the Central Narcotics Bureau, commonly abused drugs and inhalants in Singapore include:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Ketamine
  • Lysergide LSD
  • Methamphetamine
  • Nimetazepam

Laws that protect

Following the widespread abuse of opium among residents in Singapore, legislation to make opium smoking illegal was introduced in 1946. This was later accompanied by the Dangerous Drug Ordinance enacted in 1951 to specify opium, cannabis, morphine, cocaine, and heroin as dangerous drugs and unauthorised possession as an offense often requiring mandatory treatment and rehabilitation for drug addicts. The Misuse of Drugs Act and the Intoxicating Substances Act were introduced in the 1970s and 1980s respectively, with revisions being made in later years.

These laws were enacted to control the demand and supply of drugs and inhalants, as well as to protect society from problems associated with the abuse or misuse of these substances.

The dangers involved

One of the main dangers in drug and inhalant abuse is the high chance for the user to become physically and/or psychologically dependent on the substance to feel good or just to have a sense of normalcy in life. As a person's mind and body becomes accustomed to the presence of a drug, he or she may experience painful withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the drug begin to wear off. These symptoms can come in the form of fatigue, seizures, cramps and pains, moodiness, tension, chills and sweating, fits, mental confusion, severe panic, paranoia, confusion, hallucination, and numbness. Therefore, once a person is hooked to drugs or inhalants, quitting the addiction becomes difficult and he or she may use all means to get the next fix.

Other harmful effects related to drug and inhalant abuse include the permanent damage to internal organs, disruption of regular body functions, and even death. When drugs, such as Buprenorphine, are used in groups and needles are shared, there is also the risk of spreading infections, like Hepatitis B and C, and the AIDS virus, among drug users.

Inhalant abuse is also very risky as an abuser may die from suffocation on the first try. Performing normal activities such as running and shouting can result in the person suffering from a Sudden Sniffing Death syndrome.


Prevention is key

The first step to avoid drug and inhalant abuse is to say "No", even if it means declining offers from friends to "just try" these substances. Other methods include giving an excuse or simply walking away! Most importantly, remember that it is dangerous to even experiment with the use of drugs and inhalants.