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    Feb 16, 2016

    More young drug abusers arrested

    MORE new drug abusers were arrested last year and nearly 70 per cent of them were under 30 years old.

    According to latest statistics released by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) yesterday, 3,338 drug abusers were arrested last year, a 6 per cent increase from the year before.

    This is largely attributed to an increase in young drug users. Some 283 people aged below 20 were arrested, almost 1.5 times more than the year before.

    Out of 1,311 new abusers arrested, 901 of them - more than two-thirds - were aged below 30.

    Among new drug abusers, cannabis has also replaced heroin as the second-most abused drug.

    Cannabis seizures grew by about 26 per cent to 44.29kg last year, more than double the 15.57kg recovered in 2013.

    According to Eddie Joseph, assistant director of halfway house Teen Challenge, this is worrying as the substance can be a "gateway drug" for first-timers.

    A reason for its popularity could be how it is seen as "recreational, medical and not as harmful" as drugs such as Ice or heroin, although this may not be the case.

    "Sooner or later, (drug abusers') tolerance level will go up and they will turn to other substances such as new psychoactive substances (NPS)," he said. "We seldom have people sent here for the use of cannabis but many of them have experimented with it before."

    The value of drugs seized last year rose by about 5 per cent to around $8.56 million.

    Besides the increase in cannabis seized, Subutex tablets recovered also jumped from 12 to 620 while 3,172 tablets and 3.54kg of NPS were seized.

    This is up from 470 tablets and 114g of the substances seized the year before.

    Close to two times more Erimin-5 tablets were recovered as well.

    The number of inhalant abusers arrested dropped by 19 per cent to 96.

    Ice and heroin continue to be the drugs abused by over 90 per cent of arrested users, with Ice now the most abused drug.

    This comes as the largest seizures of Ice were in East and South-east Asia, according to the 2015 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

    Some 88 tonnes of Ice were recovered in 2013, up from 34 tonnes in 2009.

    To "tackle the challenging regional drug situation", CNB conducted 11 joint operations with foreign counterparts last year, it said.

    They include two joint operations with Malaysia's Narcotics Crime Investigation Department, one of which dismantled a drug trafficking syndicate based in Malaysia.

    "There are signs of increasingly tolerant attitudes towards drugs, particularly among older youths," said CNB director Ng Ser Song.

    CNB plans to reach out to older youths and preventive drug education remains the first line of defence.