Youths generally against drugs, but older youths hold more liberal views: Survey

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While a large majority of youths view drugs as illegal and addictive substances, older youths tend to hold more liberal views on drug use, survey findings released on Thursday show.

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Here is the full statement from the National Council Against Drug Abuse:

The National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) today released findings from its survey on the perceptions and attitudes of Singapore youths towards drug abuse. The key findings are that:

-Parents and teachers continue to be strong influencers in dissuading young people from experimenting with drugs; - Youths view drugs and drug abuse negatively but older youths are more likely to accept liberal attitudes towards drugs; and - Current anti-drug laws are effective.

The NCADA Youth Perception Survey was commissioned in 2013 and involved 2,075 youths aged between 13 and 21. NCADA will use the survey results to advise and work with partners in the anti-drug ecosystem. This will include fine-tuning preventive drug education (PDE) efforts, fostering greater community involvement, especially of parents, to entrench the awareness of the dangers of drug abuse.

Harnessing the influence of parents and teachers

The survey found that television remains an important source of information about drugs, with 63.1 per cent of youths surveyed listing the television as a source of information about drugs. However, parents and teachers continue to be effective in dissuading youths from drug abuse. About one in two youths surveyed indicated that they would approach their family, in particular parents, if they had any questions about drugs. Two in five youths surveyed also look to their teachers and counsellors for information.

Underscoring the influence parents have, the Survey found that 96.5 per cent of youths whose parents had spoken to them about drugs and drug abuse reported that those conversations have deterred them from taking drugs.

A/P Narayanan Ganapathy, Chairperson of NCADA's Research Sub-Committee said: "There are some television programmes that normalise drug abuse. As youths, especially those who are younger, are still highly impressionable, parents and guardians should monitor their media consumption and guide them to evaluate the information which they have obtained from the mass media."

He added that as parents and teachers appear to be the first source of information, it is crucial for them to keep informed in matters relating to drug abuse so as to effectively advise youths on drug related matters.

Only 40.6 per cent of all survey respondents said that they have had conversations with their parents on drugs. A/P Ganapathy urged more parents to initiate conversations with their children about drug abuse and its dangers.

Nurturing anti-drug values is key

When the youths were asked what would happen if they were offered drugs, 97.3 per cent were confident that they would decline. Most respondents expressed strong objections to drug abuse in their responses to the following statements:

- I believe taking drugs will harm one's health - 89.1 per cent - I believe taking drugs will affect my education - 87.6 per cent - I would try taking drugs if it was not illegal - 8.1 per cent

Similarly, when asked what they associated "drugs" with, 68.4 per cent of them chose "An illegal/harmful/dangerous substance" (43.3 per cent) or "A substance that can be addictive" (25.1 per cent). 87.3 per cent of the youths also said they felt that Singapore's laws against drugs are effective in controlling the local drug situation.

However, the Survey found that a small percentage of youths (about 4.4 per cent) display liberal attitudes towards drugs and were more likely to agree with the statement "It's alright to try drugs for a new experience". This group consisted of older youths aged 17 to 21.

A/P Ganapathy said: "Although this group is small, we will not ignore them and will factor their attitudes into the development of our PDE programmes and initiatives."

"Overall, the Survey results are reassuring. Singaporean youths view drugs negatively and believe that our drug laws are effective. NCADA and our partners in the anti-drug ecosystem will continue to nurture these anti-drug values in them", he added.

Maintaining a zero-tolerance policy on drug abuse

Mr Victor Lye, Chairman, NCADA said: "Findings from the Survey will be used to guide how we develop preventive drug education programmes and ensure that they remain relevant. For example, the finding that older youths tend to hold more liberal attitudes towards drugs and that younger youths are more susceptible to peer pressure, suggest that we need to adapt our current preventive education strategies to address these groups more effectively. NCADA will engage our anti-drug ecosystem partners in developing a more targeted approach in our ongoing fight against drug abuse."

He also said that NCADA will continue to conduct such surveys to track attitudes and perceptions towards drugs and drug abuse.

"More countries are giving in to liberal positions on drugs due to shifting societal attitudes in containing disease transmission and the uphill fight against drug abuse. In Singapore, we are fortunate to have contained drug abuse despite external challenges. Singapore must maintain a "zero-tolerance" stance against drug abuse. While the number of drug abusers arrested in Singapore remains low, we cannot take this situation for granted. The responsibility of protecting our future generations from the scourge of drugs requires the concerted effort of parents, educators and community leaders," he added.