Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Asia



Extent of Drug Abuse

Heroin is reported the primary drug of abuse in Singapore, with an estimated annual prevalence of 11,000 abusers in 1990 (U.N. 1990), and 4,171 registered abusers in 1991. Cannabis is the next most abused drug (138 registered abusers), followed by opium (116 registered abusers). Volatile solvent abuse is reported as important with a total of 420 registered abusers in 1991 (U.N. 1991), and an estimated total of 900 annual abusers in 1990 (U.N. 1990).  In 1991, 40.68 per cent of the total prison population were reported to be drug abusers (CMO 1991).

No national surveys on the extent of drug abuse in Singapore are reported to have been carried out in 1991. A registry of drug abusers undergoing compulsory treatment and rehabilitation is maintained (U.N. 1991).

Abuser Characteristics

Drug abusers are mainly males (93 per cent of the registered drug abusers in 1991). The majority (53 per cent) of the registered drug abusers are between 20 and 29 years old (U.N. 1991).

Opium abuse is reported confined in persons over the age of 40 years for 1990 (in 1991 reported as over the age of 70), mainly male Chinese with no formal education and from lower income groups (U.N. 1990).

Heroin and cannabis abusers are reported to be mainly single males, from low income groups or unskilled workers (U.N. 1990).

Regional Variations

No regional variations in drug abuse are reported to exist in Singapore (U.N. 1991).


The number of admissions to the treatment and rehabilitation centre has decreased from 4,505 in 1990 to 3,823 in 1991 and the total number of drug related offences has declined from 5,518 in 1990 to 5,085 in 1991 and (CMO 1991).

Heroin and cannabis abuse is reported stable for 1991. A decrease in the abuse of opium is reported in 1991, due in part to the demise of the more elderly abusers (U.N. 1991). Since the implementation of the Intoxicating Substances Act in November 1987, a significant decline in the abuse of inhalants is reported. A monthly average of 38 inhalant abusers were detected in 1991 compared to 93 in 1987. The reported number of inhalant abusers sent to the Inhalant Centre for treatment and rehabilitation in the first half of 1992 was 67 (CMO 1991).

Mode of intake

Smoking is the primary method of intake of heroin (U.N. 1991). However, 4.11 per cent of the registered drug dependent abusers are reported to use the intravenous method of administration. Needle sharing is reported to occur among this group (CMO 1991). Cannabis and opium are reported smoked and volatile solvents are sniffed and inhaled (U.N. 1991).


The estimated financial cost of treatment is reported for 1991 to be about 4,000 dollars (whether US or Singapore dollars is not specified) per drug addict per year (CMO 1991).

In 1991, 2 drug related deaths were reported (1 male and 1 female). Among the 40 cases of HIV infection recorded in October 1992, one was of an intravenous drug abuser (CMO 1991).



National Strategy

The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the mandatory death penalty for trafficking in, importing into or exporting from Singapore more than 15 g heroin, 30 g morphine, 30 g cocaine, 200 g cannabis resin, 500 g cannabis or 1.2 kg opium. The National Strategy adopted in Singapore is based on both supply and demand reduction activities. The Central Narcotics Bureau is the Governmental agency responsible for supply and demand reduction matters (CMO 1991, Singapore 1993).

The three law enforcement agencies responsible for counter measures against drug trafficking and abuse are the Central Narcotics Bureau, which is responsible for the planning of effective measures against major drug syndicates as well as treatment and rehabilitation matters, the Police, and the Customs and Excise Department (CMO 1991).

In Singapore, drug dependent abusers are not prosecuted in court but sent for treatment in government-run treatment centres (U.N. 1988-1991, part I).

Structure of National Drug Control Organs

The central government unit responsible for liaison and coordination of national drug control policy is the Central Narcotics Bureau.


Treaty adherence

Singapore is party to the 1961 Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol and the 1971 Convention. As regards implementation of the 1988 Convention, a new law was reported being in the drafting stage in 1991 which criminalizes money-laundering and enables the confiscation of assets.

Measures taken with respect to Drug Control

Recently enacted laws and regulations:
None reported.

Licensing system for manufacture, trade and distribution:
There is no government controlled system of licensing for either narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. No domestic manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances took place in 1991. (However, in 1990 it was reported that such a system existed).

Control system:
(i) Prescription requirement: There is a prescription requirement for supply or dispensation of preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. (ii) Warnings on packages: The law requires warnings on packages or accompanying leaflet information to safeguard the users of preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. (iii) Control of non-treaty substances, if any: None reported. (iv) Other administrative measures: None reported.

Social Measures

Penal Sanctions related to social measures: In Singapore, drug addicts are not prosecuted in court but sent for treatment in government-run treatment centers.

Other social measures: None reported.


Primary Prevention

Drug education is part of the primary school curriculum. During the first two years in secondary school, students receive additional drug preventive education as a component of the moral education syllabus. Visits to the Drug rehabilitation centres are also organized for high risk students. At the community level, the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association, a non-governmental organization providing counselling and aftercare for ex-abusers, provides ongoing drug preventive education aimed at parents, factory and office workers, public employees and uniformed groups (Singapore 1993). Anti drug activities aimed at the general population such as walkathons are carried out and in 1992, an anti-drug campaign using television, posters, leaflets, banners and bus panels was conducted (CMO 1991).

Basic training on drug abuse prevention is provided to social workers, teachers and volunteer aftercare officers but not to doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Law enforcement personnel receive further training (CMO 1991).

Treatment and Rehabilitation

Drug addicts are detected by the authorities either through urine tests, or medical observation and examination by two doctors. Treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependent abuser, which is compulsory, is carried out in the Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC). Treatment consists of detoxification, followed by a day release scheme when the ex-abuser goes to work in the day but returns to the centre after work (CMO 1991). Drug abusers may stay between 3 weeks and three years in the DRC, depending on the number of admissions and their progress while in the programme (Singapore 1993).

A compulsory two year statutory supervision period follows completion of the DRC programme. The supervisees must report at regular intervals at a designated police station for urine tests. If a supervisee is found to have relapsed, he/she is readmitted into the DRC. A new electronic monitoring system to monitor the movements of supervisees and ensure they remain at home during curfew hours has recently been introduced (Singapore 1993).

In 1991, 3,823 drug addicts were undergoing treatment in the DRC, of which 24.5 per cent were patients seeking treatment for the first time. Almost all patients were heroin addicts and 7 were opium abusers. The relapse rate for the drug supervisee placed under supervision in the first half of 1990, with two year follow up, is reported to be 70 per cent (CMO 1991).

The Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA), a voluntary non-governmental organization, provides counselling and aftercare for ex-abusers. Supervisees on the drug supervision scheme attend counselling sessions conducted by SANA's volunteer aftercare officers. Special assistance in finding employment is available through the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitated Enterprises (SCORE). SCORE also provides training opportunities for ex-abusers. Halfway houses are in operation and run by a non-governmental organization (CMO 1991).

Detoxification, drug counselling, counselling on drug related diseases (HIV, hepatitis), vocational training, education, social reintegration and aftercare are provided to drug dependent prisoners (CMO 1991).



Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

In 1991, a total of 5,085 persons were reported arrested for drug related offences (241 for drug trafficking, 900 for possession of an illicit drug, 3,944 for illicit drug consumption) and 685 were convicted (U.N. 1991). The largest number of offences were reported to related to heroin (90 per cent), followed by cannabis (6.6 per cent) and opium (2.7 per cent) (CMO 1991).


The inflow of illicit drugs, particularly heroin, is reported to be sporadic. Drugs reported seized in 1991 include heroin (56 kg), opium (61 kg), cannabis (91 kg), methadone (99 tablets), dihydrocodeine (49 tablets) and flunitrazepam (27 tablets) (CMO 1991).

Supply Source of Drugs

All heroin and opium seized in 1991 are reported to have originated from the golden triangle via Thailand and West Malaysia. Cannabis seized in 1991 originated from Thailand (U.N. 1991).

References and Notes

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years 1988-91.

U.N. 1990,1991. Replies to the UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years 1990 and 1991.

CMO 1991. Reply to the questionnaire concerning the seven targets of the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control (CMO) for the year 1991.

Singapore 1993. Official Communication from the Central Narcotics Bureau regarding information on national strategy to reduce illicit demand for drugs. 15 September 1993.