Help to stay away from drugs

SINGAPORE - Repeat drug abuser Ella (not her real name) is grateful she is on a special programme to help people like her.

The enhanced supervision programme, launched in November last year, is reserved for drug offenders who have been assessed to have a higher risk of re-offending.

It is a collaboration between the Singapore Prison Service and the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

Ella, 37, has been in and out of jail three times for abusing heroin and Ice.

She was last released from prison in December and she told The New Paper that she is still trying to pick up the pieces.

She said that the enhanced supervision programme, which includes compulsory counselling sessions, has been helpful in getting her to turn over a new leaf.

Speaking in Malay, Ella, who started taking drugs in 1993, said: "I've been receiving a lot of help. There is now somebody that I can turn to whenever I need help. I can pour my heart out to my counsellor on all kinds of personal problems, not just drug-related ones.

"If this programme had been made available earlier, maybe I would not have gone in and out of jail so many times."

Other than the counselling sessions, Ella, who dropped out of school in Secondary 2, must also go for regular urine tests and stick to strict curfews.

She was also assigned a case manager to guide and provide her with referrals on employment opportunities.

More repeat abusers

Repeat offenders like her make up 69 per cent of the total number of drug abusers arrested last year, CNB statistics showed. And their numbers are growing.

The CNB said yesterday that 2,397 repeat abusers were caught last year, up from 2,198 the year before. (See graphics at right.)

CNB figures also showed that Malays make up more than half of the total number of drug abusers caught last year.

Mr Mohd Yusof Ismail, chief executive of Ain Society - a group that works with troubled youth and dysfunctional families - said that this is because, unlike the other races in Singapore, the Malays can be more "communal".

"The 'kampung spirit' is very much alive among the Malays who like gathering together. Unfortunately, sometimes, drugs come into the picture and abusers will consume illegal substances together," he said.

Mr Mohd Yusof added that the problem sometimes does not end when a former abuser is released from jail.

"Former abusers usually find it difficult to reintegrate into society after spending time behind bars. They will then meet up with their old friends who could be drug addicts themselves. These former inmates could then go back to their old habit," he said.

Even though Mr Mohd Yusof felt that it is still too early to gauge the effectiveness of the enhanced supervision programme, he gave the initiative the thumbs up as it helps former drug abusers reintegrate into society.

Mr Steven Tham, who is the assistant director of aftercare and preventive drug education at the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association, said that family support is also crucial and without this, many would return to their old friends and their old ways.

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