On Dec 3, two Malaysian women were caught trying to smuggle drugs in via the Woodlands Checkpoint. One of them was carrying heroin and the other, Ice. While heroin addiction has been a scourge here for more than 50 years, Ice or methamphetamine abuse is a more recent entry.
Known as crystal meth in the US, Ice has wreaked havoc on abusers. But in Singapore, users think it is a soft drug that they cannot get addicted to. What is alarming is that the number of people caught abusing Ice is steadily increasing, said the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).
Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (Sana) is concerned by another sobering number, abusers tend to be young, aged between 20 and 29. And the situation will only get worse. Syndicates that produce and import not just heroin but Ice in neighbouring countries are buoyed by growing demand. Some of the drugs will end up trickling in here.
A CNB spokesman said: “CNB expects the numbers to continue to rise, given the worsening regional situation.
We have intensified our enforcement efforts on the ground and will continue to do so.
On Oct 28, CNB seized about 1kg of Ice from a 49-year-old Singaporean at Woodlands Checkpoint, the largest seizure of the drug to date in Singapore.
The demand for ice is high, former abuser Helen (not her real name) told The New Paper. She said that many users seem to think the drug “is cool thing to take”. The 26-year-old, who works at a nightclub here, first took Ice two years ago. “My friends told me it was not addictive, but it would make me very active. I took it because it was something we shared when we were out having fun,” she told The New Paper.
She would typically smoke the drug using a home-made device fashioned out of plastic bottles. The drug also comes in pill form.
A CNB spokesman told The New Paper that of the 702 methamphetamine abusers caught in 2010, 531 or 76 per cent were new abusers.
Ice is believed to have made its way here in the early 1990s. Since then, it has become the drug of choice for many in this part of the world, replacing traditional narcotics like heroin,opium and cannabis.
The young abusers “have been influenced by their peers or by lifestyle choices like clubbing”, said Sana executive director Lim Poh Quee.
A new task force, headed by Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli, was set up in September to look at ways to tackle Singapore’s drug problem anew. One of its target areas: the popularity of Ice among drug users.
The Ice trade is a lucrative one and the drug is increasingly popular in Asia.
The ingredients are taken from a variety of materials, including batteries, bringing huge profits for little investment, a recent United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC)report indicated.
According to the UNODC World Drug Report 2011, regional seizures for methamphetamine accounts for 64 per cent of global seizures in 2009.
The report indicated that international drug gangs from Africa and Iran are aiming to ramp up the region’s escalating ice demand. They have switched from cocaine and heroin and are now moving into the trafficking of amphetamine- type stimulants, a category to which Ice belongs.
There are no meth labs here, but supplies are believed to come mainly from Myanmar and Thailand.
Malaysia is already badly hit. The authorities there arrested 228 Iranian couriers between 2009 and last year for smuggling methamphetamine.
In Singapore, the punishment for taking or being found with methamphetamine is up to 10 years in jail or a $20,000 fine, or both.
Those caught trafficking in more than 250g of the drug face the death penalty.