Case of baby morphine addict haunts him

Case of baby morphine addict haunts him

Photo above: CNB director gives his first one-on-one interview to the media on the challenges he faces.

SINGAPORE - When Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers raided a flat in December 2009, they saw something that broke their hearts.

They had gone to arrest a couple suspected of taking drugs.

There, they found a four-month old baby.

The mother was stoned from abusing heroin. They later discovered that her baby was also addicted to morphine.

This particular case haunts CNB's director, Senior Assistant Commissioner Ng Ser Song, 50. It is the one he uses to remind himself and his officers why they should work hard to remove the scourge of drugs from our streets.

Mr Ng took over command of CNB on Feb1. He was previously the commander of airport police and director of the police intelligence department.

In 2009, when he was deputy director of CNB, his officers told him about the baby. The child's parents were long-term drug abusers. One of their older children contacted the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

CNB was informed and raided the flat.

Mr Ng said they had to plan the arrest carefully and they made sure the children were not around when CNB officers turned up.

He said: "We did not want to arrest the parents in front of the kids because it would be traumatising for the children."

This case had such an impact on Mr Ng, who has a young daughter, that he often uses it to tell people why CNB can't ease up on its fight against drugs.

He said: "A mum who is pregnant, you will be very careful about what you take. But here you have a mum who pumped herself silly with drugs."

When the baby was sent to KK Women's and Children's Hospital, CNB officers discovered that the child was addicted to morphine.

The four children are now being cared for by other people.

"Now, you have four kids without parents," Mr Ng added.

The baby recovered.

Mr Ng, who is married to a housewife, said it was not uncommon for family members to report loved ones to them when they suspect something amiss.

CNB receives 2,000 to 3,000 tip-offs a year.

"Sometimes, we have to literally drag their parents away from them. Sometimes, my officers have to play nanny (to the children) because there's no one to care for the kids.

"We'd have male and female officers buying them food and talking to them."

Not glamorous

It's not a glamorous job, said Mr Ng, but knowing that drugs affect both abusers and their families is what motivates him and his more than 160 officers daily.

This is even more so when it comes to protecting the young.

The number of new young abusers - below 20 years old - increased from 155 arrested in 2010 to 225 nabbed last year.

It is the highest number since 2000.

Whole families are being destroyed by drugs.

Like the 16-year-old girl CNB arrested last October for taking Ice and heroin.

She had told CNB officers that she had got the drugs from her stepsister, her mother's boyfriend and her mother.

"Can you believe that?" asked Mr Ng.

"To me, drugs destroy your soul to the extent that you don't think about your kin. The people around you will also suffer."

All four people and three other young family members are now in drug rehabilitation centres. The attitude of some young people towards not just drug abuse but drug enforcement worries Mr Ng.

He said that in an internal survey done by CNB of more than 200 young Ice and heroin abusers, aged between 16 and 30 years old, several worrying statements kept coming up.

"Oh, my friends do it."

"I won't get addicted."

"I will have the will power to wean (myself) off it."

Sometimes, the misconceptions about drugs can be as deadly as the drugs themselves.

Ice, for example, can cause fits, strokes and death; heroin damages the lungs, kidneys and liver; and Ecstasy can cause jaw clenching, teeth grinding and uncontrollable shaking.

Mr Ng said: "The drugs are made by rogue chemists. You don't know what they put into them."

He said the change in attitude by the young could be because Singapore is more connected to the world today through technology like the Internet, cable television and smart phones.

And because the young represent the future of Singapore, protecting them from being destroyed by drugs is one of the main goals of the CNB.

Referring to the four month-old baby, Mr Ng said: "Doesn't this baby deserve to be born without an addiction?

"To me, everybody, from the pusher, to the courier, to the supplier, is responsible for making this baby born with an addiction.

"We want to protect kids from drugs.

"This is the ultimate outcome."

"To me, drugs destroy your soul to the extent that you don’t think about your kin. The people around you... also suffer."

andrey@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The New Paper .

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