Overview of the drug situation

As a small island-state which has some of the world’s most stringent drug laws, Singapore is not a producer of narcotics or precursor chemicals. Drug use patterns have  fluctuated widely in Singapore over the past ten years. This is reflected in arrests, seizures and treatment data. Most illicit drugs are trafficked into Singapore from other countries in the region. Prior to 2004, heroin was the most commonly used drug, but in that year the use of ketamine, nimetazepam, inhal- ants, methamphetamine and cannabis surpassed heroin. Heroin is the most commonly used drug and its use has increased each year since 2006.

The use of inhalants remains high, particularly among young users. Use of crystalline meth- amphetamine has increased for three consecutive years, and drug treatment and arrest data indicate that use of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) was high compared with the other drugs.

Patterns and trends of drug use

Drug use – In 2009, use of methamphetamine increased for the third consecutive year, with smoking as the main mode of administration. Methamphetamine has replaced buprenorphine as the third most commonly used drug. Methamphetamine users1   in 2009 accounted for 19% of all drug users arrested (CNB, 2010b). Ecstasy is not indicated to be a major problem in the country, and is ranked as the eighth most commonly used drug. The use of ecstasy showed a decline for the second consecutive year in 2009.

Heroin remains the most commonly used drug, with use increasing for the second consecutive year in 2009. In 2008, heroin emerged as the leading drug of use for the  first time since 2003, with smoking as the main mode of administration. In 2009, 57% of all illicit drug users arrested were heroin users (CNB, 2010a).

Inhalants ranked as the second most commonly used drug in 2009, for the second consecutive year. Inhalant use remained stable in 2009 after declining from 2007 to 2008. The majority of inhalant users are under the age of 20 (CNB, 2010b).

Buprenorphine, a narcotic analgesic used in some countries to treat opiate dependence, is the fourth most commonly used drug. Buprenorphine was ranked as an illicit drug of use for the  first time in 2006, the same year that it was classified as a Class A2  (UNODC, 2009b) controlled drug. However, buprenorphine use has declined each year since 2007 (CNB, 2010c).

Ketamine was ranked as the number one drug of concern in 2004 but its use has gradually de- creased, and it was ranked as the fifth most commonly used drug in 2009.

Use of nimetazepam, a benzodiazepine-related substance sold under the brand name Erimin, increased and was the sixth most commonly used drug in 2009. In 2005, nimetazepam ranked as the most commonly used illicit substance. Nimetazepam has been a controlled substance in Singapore since 1992 and there are reports of its availability on the streets in combination with methamphetamine (UNODC, 2007; UNODC, 2009b). Cannabis herb was the seventh ranked drug of concern and its use increased in 2009.