SINGAPORE - By the time he was released from Changi Prison in July last year, Ismil Kadar had been free from drugs for six years.
But within months of gaining his freedom, he went back to his old heroin habit, and was busted by the Central Narcotics Bureau in May for taking drugs.
On Thursday, Ismil, 44, was sentenced to seven years in jail.
His struggle with drugs is one common to other hardcore drug abusers - or long-term offenders in law enforcement parlance.
They are those who have relapsed after being admitted to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre at least twice, failed to provide a urine sample at least twice, or any combination of the two.
Counsellors who spoke to The Straits Times said a long period of incarceration helps wean abusers off drugs physically, but mentally, the task is harder.
Mr Dick Lum, a psychotherapist who counsels drug addicts at Christian Care Services, said: "The body may have recovered when they come out of prison, but their mindset is harder to change.
"A person who has tasted drugs and has experienced the high will want to go back to them each time he faces an issue in life. To him, it's a way of escaping from reality, which he cannot face."
The Singapore Prison Service estimates that about 3,000 long-term offenders will be released from jail from now until 2014. To keep them straight, it will enforce stricter supervision on those most likely to relapse - by electronically monitoring them and imposing curfews and mandatory counselling.
This is on top of regular urine tests they are required to undergo for up to two years after release.
"There are many factors that come into play, like counselling, getting them a job or providing support. You need to find and address the root cause of their addiction and help them find the right motivations," said Mr Lim Poh Quee, executive director of Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association.
Before his time in prison for robbery with hurt, Ismil had spent most of his life in a drug-fuelled haze. In an interview after his release last year, he said he had been introduced to drugs by friends. His most recent drug-taking arose from boredom, court documents said.
Mr Lum said former drug abusers who have been in jail are often shunned by others, which is why they end up mixing with the "bad" friends they used to keep.
"Many people who take drugs feel left out, rejected and marginalised, and acceptance by society plays a very important part in helping them kick the addiction," he added.
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