Curiosity led to misery

Curiosity led to misery
PHOTO: The New Paper

He was 17, a student and all his allowance was spent on heroin.

A friend had introduced him to the drug in 2013.

Now 19, the barista who wanted to be known only as YC, said he tried drugs because he was "curious" His friends were also getting high on drugs.

But he soon got hooked.

For the next six months, he took heroin every three to four days, spending his pocket money on a high instead of food.

He suffered from withdrawal symptoms during the fasting period because he was not given any allowance and could no longer afford his drug habit.

He then met a family friend and confided in him that he needed a fix.

"He scolded me when he found out I was on heroin," said YC.

"He said, why take heroin? Try ice. It's better than heroin, it's not addictive."

From taking heroin twice a week, he turned to ice every day in his room, hiding his habit from his parents.

The law caught up with him in January 2014, when his mother received a call from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) informing her that they were looking for him.

His mother accompanied him to CNB and she kept asking him on the way there if he took drugs.

"I kept denying that I was on drugs, but that was because I was still high at that time, after taking ice the night before," he said.

"After turning myself in and admitting to the officers that I was on drugs, they told me to tell my mother myself."

It was at that point he broke his mother's heart.

"'I'm taking drugs ma', that's what I said to her. She cried and asked me multiple times why, but I couldn't answer," he said. He was then led away.

THEY FORGAVE HIM

"They said they forgave me and blamed themselves, saying they failed as parents. I told them through sobs that it wasn't their fault and they said they'll pray for the best."

YC's mother, 43, a housekeeping executive, said life has been very different for the family since that dark episode.

She said: "It was very hard on me at first because I could not accept that my son took drugs."

She has now taken it upon herself to give him guidance and moral support, encouraging him to never give up and to leave his past behind.

YC has moved on with his life after spending time in rehabilitation. He has a new girlfriend and has also cut links to his druggie friends.

Time for drug tests in schools?

The number of new drug abusers below 20 years old arrested in the first half of this year has reached a four-year high.

Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said in its drug situation report released yesterday that the number of young abusers arrested has shot up to 123 this year, compared to 74 in the same period in 2012.

Should Singapore introduce random drug testing in local schools to save the young from substance abuse?

International schools here are already testing their students for traces of narcotics.

From testing their urine to sending their hair samples to laboratory tests, these schools are taking a zero-tolerance stance towards students who abuse drugs. Students who test positive for drugs could be suspended or even expelled.

Experts The New Paper spoke to were divided when asked if local schools should do the same.

Clinical psychologist Dr Carol Balhetchet supported the idea of conducting random tests on students.

REHABILITATION

The senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children's Society said that the school must work closely with a youngster's parents if he or she tested positive.

Dr Balhetchet also said that these young offenders should undergo rehabilitation and counselling.

She said: "However, if a youngster continues to abuse drugs despite repeated attempts at rehabilitation, the parents must inform the CNB about their child.

"Sometimes, one has to be cruel to be kind."

Deputy director of Breakthrough Missions Freddy Wee agreed and stressed that the problem must be nipped in the bud.

Mr Wee, whose organisation runs a halfway house for more than 40 former offenders at Yew Siang Road in Pasir Panjang, said that most of his residents were former abusers and many started their drug habit when they were below 30 years old.

"Some had been in and out of jail and drug rehabilitation centres (DRCs) more than 10 times," he said.

"Random checks in schools could help our young abusers before their drug problem gets worse."

But lawyer Rajan Supramaniam disagreed with the idea of having random drug tests in schools.

The former senior prison officer said that such tests could have "adverse repercussions".

Citing an example, he said that a student who tested positive could become an outcast when his peers learn about his results. The youngster could even be victimised by the others because of this.

Mr Supramaniam said: "Instead, parents can step up the supervision of their child and look out for tell-tale signs like slurred speech. "The child should be sent for rehabilitation and counselling first.

"If that fails, the parents should then inform the CNB."

COMMUNITY

The Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association said that preventive drug education and getting more community partners to work with government agencies like CNB would be a better approach than drug testing.

Its executive director, Mr Abdul Karim, said: "Closer supervision, parental guidance and support are all the more important.

"Parents need to know who their children mix with and what activities they are involved in.

"Parents need to also know about youths and the kind of drugs that they take and the harm it can cause so that they can have a discussion with their teens."

The Ministry of Education said that it works closely with CNB to provide relevant interventions.

It said that schools also arrange anti-drug abuse talks and visits to DRCs for their students.

Its spokesman said: "A toolkit for parents, educators and counsellors will be available from the late 2015.

"The toolkit will contain information on commonly abused drugs, how to detect signs of drug abuse, how to help young people stay away from drugs and the helplines to call if they suspect a young person is abusing drugs.

"It is important to adopt a many-helping-hands approach, with government agencies, schools and parents working together in protecting our youths from drug abuse."

Drug cases involving young people

Ex-YOG cyclist jailed

Former Youth Olympic Games (YOG) cyclist Alvin Phoon Hui Zhi, 22, was found guilty on July 23 of drug trafficking and consumption. He was sentenced to five years' jail and ordered to receive five strokes of the cane.

Phoon, who was a full-time national serviceman in the police force at the time of the offences, was arrested at the Tanglin Police Division Headquarters in June last year.

He had acted as a middleman, procuring cannabis from a trafficker called "Roy" and then selling the drug for a profit to his friends. He had been doing so for six months before his arrest.

Teen grew cannabis

He grew two pots of cannabis at his Yishun home after researching online on how he could cultivate the plants.

This offence came to light after he was arrested on suspicion of taking drugs.

On Nov 18, 2013, the then-18-year-old boy was sentenced to three years of probation.

He pleaded guilty in September that year to cultivating the plants, consuming cannabis and trafficking heroin.

Undergrad steals underwear

While high on drugs, he decided to stock up on underwear at Mustafa Centre on Dec 27, 2009.

The undergraduate, who was then 26, tried to shoplift boxer shorts and singlets, but was caught by a security guard as he was leaving the store.

While in remand at a police lock-up, he was found to have a zipper storage packet containing 0.35g of cannabis. Traces of the drug were detected in his urine.

On Dec 31, 2010, he was given three years' probation for one count each of cheating, drug possession and drug consumption.

davidsun@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 22, 2015.
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