Emerging trends and concerns

  • International drug trafficking organizations continue to target Singapore as a transit location for the trafficking of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) into the region.
  • In 2012 and 2013, Singapore has reported its highest ever total seizures of crystalline methamphetamine, most of which was destined for international markets.
  • Methamphetamine use remains a significant problem, particularly among young drug users as well as drug users arrested for the first time.
  • A growing number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) have been found in pills sold as ‘ecstasy’ in Singapore in recent years. The Government has responded by enacting temporary scheduling to restrict the availability of NPS.

Overview of the drug situation

Methamphetamine continued to be the most commonly used drug among young drug users and drug users arrested for the first time in 2013. However, heroin remains the primary drug of concern in Singapore. During the past few years, about 92% of all drug users arrested for drugs were users of heroin or methamphetamine. Ecstasy is not indicated to be a significant problem in the country.

Table 1. Trend in use of selected drugs in Singapore, 2009-2013

The number of persons admitted to drug treatment for methamphetamine use in Singapore has increased each year since 2005. The number of methamphetamine users in treatment in 2013 (675) was about 15% higher than the number in 2012. As a proportion of all persons in drug treatment, crystalline methamphetamine users accounted for about 49% (heroin users accounted for 36%), marking the first time since 2007 that the proportion of methamphetamine users in treatment was higher than for heroin users.

Table 2. Drug treatment admissions in Singapore by drug type, 2009-2013

The trafficking and use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) is not a major problem in Singapore. However, Singapore is one of two countries in Asia that have reported seizures of each group of NPS (the other is Japan). The appearance of synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones were first reported in Singapore in 2011. The appearance of the plant-based substance kratom was first reported before 2008. The trafficking and use of ketamine has been a concern for several years, although its use is currently indicated to be limited; and ketamine is among several new psychoactive substances found in pills sold as “ecstasy” in Singapore.

Ketamine, BZP (1-benzylpiperazine), TFMPP (1-(3-trifluoromethylphenyl)piperazine, and mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone) are listed as Class A controlled drugs in the First Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA). In addition, a new Fifth Schedule has been introduced in May 2013, which allows the authorities to list a new psychoactive substance for a period of 12 months, with a possibility of extension for another 12 months. The Singapore Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) has the power to seize new psychoactive substances listed in the Fifth Schedule so that their circulation is restricted. The trafficking, manufacture, import, export, possession or consumption of any substance listed in the Fifth Schedule will not constitute an offence under the MDA. All offences will apply when substances are removed from the Fifth Schedule and listed as controlled drugs in the First Schedule. In May 2014, the CNB moved all the psychoactive substances listed in the Fifth Schedule of the MDA onto in the First Schedule of the same Act. This means that the psychoactive substances have been reclassified as Class A controlled drugs. Separately, a new list of substances was placed in the Fifth Schedule of the MDA, which includes five synthetic cannabinoids and eight phenethylamines.

In 2013, a total of around 44 kg of crystalline methamphetamine was seized in Singapore, the second highest amount ever recorded in the country. A large portion (approximately 80%) of the crystalline methamphetamine seized in Singapore was believed to casino be destined for further trafficking to drug markets in the region. Between January and June 2014, the amount of crystalline methamphetamine seized decreased when compared with the first half of 2013, by about 62%, from approximately 22.5 kg to 8.65 kg. However, seizures of crystalline methamphetamine intended specifically for the domestic market increased by about 10% from about 4.8 kg to 5.3 kg.

In 2013, seizures of methamphetamine pills surged to 22,020 pills; however, 21,910 methamphetamine pills were seized from a single case, in November 2013. The number of ecstasy pills seized increased by 79% in 2013 to 7,327 pills.

Table 3. Seizures of selected illicit drugs in Singapore, 2009-2013

The amounts of heroin seized in the past three years have been at the highest levels in the past decade, due primarily to increased trafficking of heroin originating from Myanmar. Cocaine seizures were reported for the first time since 2005, with the bulk (99.9%) of the 4.1 kg seized in 2013 intended for overseas markets.

According to the Government, drug trafficking networks in Singapore operate on a much smaller scale and traffic drugs in small quantities. There is no known manufacture of illicit drugs in Singapore. Most illicit drugs are trafficked into Singapore from neighbouring countries, usually concealed on the person. Large shipments of illicit drugs – including ATS – and precursor chemicals continue to be detected transiting through the country, primarily for further trafficking into the region.