My friend's death woke me up

SINGAPORE - He has been in and out of drug rehabilitation centres and jail for various offences since he was a teenager.

Mr Wong Kok Kian is now 42. But after having finally kicked his addiction and recovered from his drug-induced paranoia, he can at least call himself a drug survivor.

Not so his friend, whom he nicknamed Ai Zi (Mandarin for shortie) because of his height.

The two friends were abusers of the illegal synthetic drug Ice, the street name for methamphetamine, which has become the drug of choice among young abusers in recent years.

Ai Zi's paranoia from his abuse of the drug became so bad that he started believing that people were hiding behind every corner and were out to get him.

One day more than five years ago, in a state of paranoia, the man scaled a wall at an HDB block and fell to his death.

Mr Wong was devastated when he learnt about the incident.

"It was very sad as we had been best friends since we were young," he said.

His friend's death shook him up, Mr Wong said.

He was determined to clean up his act and not share Ai Zi's fate.

He said: "I told myself that if I didn't quit, I would do something similar in future."

Mr Wong told The New Paper that he first tried Ice in 2000. Before that, he abused heroin and cannabis.

He said in Mandarin: "I would smoke Ice and I could stay awake for up to four days and not feel tired.

"I would smoke a bit at home, do other things and come back to smoke some more."

Mr Wong, who is now a reflexologist, has been a resident at the Breakthrough Missions halfway house at Yew Siang Road in Pasir Panjang for the past three years.

He was released from prison in 2008.

While under the influence of Ice, he would go partying with his friends - who were also drug addicts - at pubs and karaoke lounges.

Mr Wong said that his friends had introduced him to the drug and he tried it out of curiosity.

He soon started buying his own supply.

Back in 2000, 1g of Ice cost $150, he said. TNP understands that the same amount of the drug can cost up to $300 now.

The single gram of Ice could last Mr Wong three days.

He said: "I could go on without sleeping or feeling tired. But after going for days without sleeping a wink, I started hallucinating.

"I became paranoid and thought the police were spying on me. I also felt that all my friends were trying to play me out and thought that everyone was going against me.

"It wasn't a good feeling as I found it difficult to trust anyone."

Mr Wong was arrested later that year and spent 18 months behind bars.

Destroyed his family life

Destroyed his family life

"Drugs have destroyed my family life," said the father of a nine-year-old boy.

He got married in 2003 after he was released from jail, but the union fell apart when he was arrested two more times soon afterwards for theft.

He said: "I now see my son about once a month. Since my stint in this halfway home, my ties with my parents and siblings have improved.

"In the past, because of my life of crime, they refused to have anything to do with me."

Mr Wong is still living in the halfway home as he worries that he may be tempted to return to his old ways should he leave.

He said: "I've tried to quit before, but I never succeeded on my own.

"When I came here, I had no choice but to rely on my inner strength. It was tough, but it worked."

Ice is an especially dangerous drug that is highly addictive, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) website revealed.

Abuse of the drug can lead to liver and kidney diseases as well as abnormal behaviour with mood swings, delusions and hallucinations.

The drug can even cause death, and this is not surprising since some of the chemicals used in its production are toxic.

CNB seized 14kg of Ice last year, the highest ever recorded in its history.

The number of people arrested for abusing the drug has also gone up by 60 per cent. CNB said that 1,124 Ice abusers were nabbed last year, up from 702 in 2010.

Those found guilty of consuming or being in possession of Ice can be jailed up to 10 years and fined up to $20,000.

Anyone convicted of illegally trafficking, importing or exporting more than 250g of the drug will face the death penalty.

Made from thinner, drain cleaner 

Drug's made from thinner, drain cleaner 

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said it is on the alert for makeshift methamphetamine labs here.

Some meth labs overseas have turned into firebombs because the substances used to make the illicit drug, also known as Ice, are highly combustible.

The include paint thinner, drain cleaner, chloroform and battery acid or sulphuric acid.

The drug also contains pseudoephedrine, which is found in several over-the-counter medication used to treat the common cold and allergies.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force spokesman said it has not come across fires here that are linked to meth labs.

But the authorities have reason to be cautious.

A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that law enforcement agencies in Malaysia and Indonesia have smashed clandestine meth labs.

When contacted, a CNB spokesman said: "We share intelligence and information on drug trafficking syndicates with our counterparts.

"We also have frequent joint operations to curb the flow of drugs into Singapore."

CNB also has in place legislation and systems to control the movement of chemicals critical to the production of Ice in and out of Singapore.

This covers 23 controlled substances such as pseudoephedrine and sulphuric acid.

While it hasn't uncovered any meth labs here, the CNB spokesman said: "We cannot let our guard down because of the potential danger that a meth lab could have on its surrounding environment."

 

This article was first published in The New Paper .