Addiction in Singapore – Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Singapore is a thriving global financial hub and described as one of Asia’s economic “tigers”. It is also renowned for its conservatism and strict local laws. Like all developed nations it has residents who face addictions ranging from alcoholism, substance abuse and behavioral disorders like gambling.
Yes, drug addiction is a problem in Singapore despite the squeaky clean image and the zero tolerance approach to illicit drugs. In Singapore, any sort of illicit drug use is a criminal offence and punished with a prison sentence. This means there is a certain stigma related to drug use here.
The Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) permits the police to search anyone they suspect of drug trafficking or drug use without asking the court for a warrant. The police can ask anyone to perform a urinalysis; not taking the test is seen as a presumption of guilt.
Those convicted of drug trafficking are often sentenced to death. The MDA empowers the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) to commit a drug abuser for treatment and rehabilitation in a drug rehabilitation centre for between 6 and 36 months.
WARNING: Consumption or possession of drugs carries a fine of up to S$20,000 and/or ten years in prison.
The Wrong Approach to Treating Drug Addiction?
The government has prioritized the “War on Drugs” but has not really done much to provide proper rehabilitation programs for recovering drug addicts.
Drug addiction is considered to be a moral failing rather than as a disease in Singapore. This means many addicts try to hide their condition as much as possible and go underground. For this reason, many local and international experts have called for a more humane treatment of drug addicts, one that seeks to understand them and empathises with their condition, rather than treat them like criminals.