'Parents have role to play in deterring kids from drugs'

SINGAPORE - Almost 60 per cent of young Singaporeans say their parents have never talked to them about drugs - despite the strong deterrent effect such conversations have, a survey has found.

The National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) yesterday released the results of a study of more than 2,000 respondents aged 13 to 21. Of the 40 per cent who had spoken to their parents about drugs, more than nine out of 10 said the talk had deterred them from taking them.

Asked which different sources they turned to for drug information, 63 per cent said television, 58 per cent said talks by teachers and experts, and 44 per cent said websites. Further in-depth interviews showed the Internet was the preferred source for drug advice.

More than 95 per cent of those polled last year were confident that they could say no to drugs, even in the face of peer pressure. Over 85 per cent perceived drugs and drug use negatively, considering them illegal, addictive or having mind- and body-altering capabilities.

However the council highlighted worrying trends, such as an increase in the number who think it is impossible to become addicted to certain drugs, think taking drugs do not harm their health, and did not mind if their friends and parents knew if they chose to take them.

Older teens were also nearly twice as likely as secondary schoolers to hold more liberal views - including that some substances should not be illegal.

Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) data released last Friday showed 180 drug abusers below the age of 20 were arrested in 2013, down from 190 the year before. In 2011, 260 were arrested.

NCADA said it is looking to partner the Ministry of Education to identify youth at risk of dropping out of school, and work with the

Ministry of Social and Family Development and CNB to offer programmes for them. It will also look at ways to encourage parents to talk to their children about drug abuse, such as by offering financial assistance to voluntary welfare groups to organise anti-drug events involving parents.

"We thought that parents would have been a bit more involved in educating their children, but we realised that that wasn't the case," said Assistant Professor Narayanan Ganapathy, the chairman of NCADA's research sub-committee.

He added: "We will be communicating this data to CNB so that they could then think about a more calibrated and differentitated approach to working with parents."

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