SINGAPORE: More highly educated individuals — like professionals and managers — are turning to drugs. This, according to the Singapore Anti—Narcotics Association (SANA), which has seen an increase in the number of such individuals seeking help.
The increase in the number of drug abusers below the age of 20 has been in the news. But the association said there is another group slowly coming into the spotlight.
SANA has noticed an increase in the number of drug abusers who are more highly educated. It has handled about 10 such cases in the last one—and—a—half years alone. While this number may seem small, the association said this new trend is worrying.
The association said most of these individuals take synthetic drugs — otherwise known as party and performance drugs, including ecstasy and ice.
Lim Poh Quee, executive director of the Singapore Anti—Narcotics Association, said: "One case involved a lady, a professional from a law firm. The reason she went into drugs was to remain, to be a top dog among her law colleagues. So it’s the stress of keeping up, which eventually pushed her into drug addiction.
"Second was a manager... comes from a very well—to—do family, yet he turned to drugs. Why? Boredom."
The association said more awareness is needed to address the issue.
Mr Lim added: "Greater publicity of the danger of drug abuse, greater publicity that if you need help, there are certain places you can turn to for help, you don’t need to turn to drugs. You can’t just change your mind saying you’ll get into drug addiction for one year, two years, and say in the third year: ’I want to stop.’ It doesn’t work that way."
SANA plans to open a 24—hour drop—in centre and set up a 24—hour hotline.
It currently leaves its office open past office hours till 8.45pm on Thursdays, but it said the challenge will be finding enough quality staff, counsellors and funding to run the place. The SANA helpline currently operates from Mondays to Fridays, 8.30am to 6pm. In the first half of the year, the helpline received about 50 calls.
To reach out to more youngsters, it will make use of social media, like Facebook and Twitter. The number of drug abusers under the age of 20 arrested last year also jumped — from 79 in 2007 to 257 in 2011.
Mr Lim said: "Youngsters prefer to speak, they do not prefer to ring up, to speak to someone who they do not know, they do not feel comfortable. To them it’s not cool, it’s wimpy to do it. That’s the reason why we have to change the way we’re doing our work."
The start—up cost of both the drop—in centre and hotline will be about S$1 million. SANA said it has yet to secure any funds for its proposed new initiatives.
The association said it handles about 500 cases a year — mostly people with primary or secondary school education — and its success rate has seen an improvement, from about 40 per cent two years ago, to about 86 per cent this year.
Mr Lim said this can be attributed to improvements made to its various programmes in recent years.
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