Firstly, we are socialized by a varietyof individuals.

Parents generally provide long term values, and their use ofalcohol or drugs has the potential to influence their children. May be theseyouths see their parents and other adults drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and, sometimes,trying other substances and they may beinfluenced.Secondly, peers sometime provide even more powerfulsocialization. Peer pressure is a powerful force at any stages in ones’life, especially for youths. Teenagers is the time when they seek to fitin their community, find their place in it, and be accepted, therefore beinggreatly influenced by the people around them. In today’s context, drugsare considered normal and acceptable by many teenagers. If the people in theirsocial group uses drugs, there will be a direct or indirect pressure from them.Direct pressure is where aperson is offered to try drugs by their own peers.

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Indirect pressure is whensomeone sees everyone around them using drugs and sees nothing wrong withtaking drugs. They might therefore turn to use drugs just to fit in thesocial norms.Thirdly, according to symbolic interactionism theory, theperception that taking drugs is “cool” and that it symbolizes one’s maturity isfast becoming rampant and accepted in Singapore. Thus, the teenagers may justtry it just to be considered “cool” by their own peers.Fourthly, drugs and alcohol help serve acertain function. Whenyouths are unhappy and cannot find a healthy outlet for their frustration or atrusted confidant, they may turn to substances for solace. Depending on whatsubstance they are trying, they may feel blissfully oblivious, wonderfullyhappy or energized and confident.

The often stressful young years can take an emotional toll on the youngones, sometimes even causing depression, so when these youths are given achance to take something to make them feel better, many cannot resist.For example, some young people abuse prescription medicine tomanage stress or regulate their lives. Sometimes they abuse prescription stimulants (usedto treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) to provide additional energyand the ability to focus when they are studying or taking tests. Othersare abusing prescription pain relievers and tranquilizers tocope with academic, social or emotional stress.Fifthly, the concept of curiosity is centralto motivation which is a natural part of life and teenagers are not immune tothe urge. Many teens begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol simply becausethey are curious and want to know what it feels like. As teenagers, they havethe delusion that they are invincible.

Even if they know that drugs are bad,they don’t believe that anything bad can actually happen to them. Furthermore,trying drugs provides a common ground for interacting with like-minded teens, away to instantly bond with a group of youths.Lastly, the most avoidable cause of substance use isinaccurate information about drugs and alcohol. Nearly every young people has friends who claim to be experts onvarious recreational substances, and they are happyto assure him or her thatthe risks are minimal. This is supported by a news report where it is reported that youththinks cannabis is not addictive, which is a huge misconception.

 Singapore’s strictlaws have been a constant deterrent for many to think twice before indulging indrug abuse. Despite the tough laws regarding drug abuse and trafficking inSingapore, this social problem remains very real and available as illustratedby the numerous drug raids carried out each year. Singapore’s proximity todrug-producing areas continues to pose a significant threat to our society.Furthermore Singapore, being such an open and well-connected country, is notimmune to external influence and the worldwide movement for the legalisationand decriminalisation of cannabis. Singaporeans may become more accepting ofdrugs as a lifestyle choice. Drugs being abused are beyond just the usualheroin and cannabis, but also street drugs like “Ecstasy”, “Ice” etc., whichhave also become increasingly available on the streets. As such, I propose a more integrated approach to deal with the drug problem.

 Thisincludes firstly, a preventive drug education. Secondly, a rigorousenforcement. And lastly, a robust treatment and rehabilitation for addicts, andaftercare and continued rehabilitation for ex-addicts to reintegrate them intosociety.Firstly, I would like to propose a structured preventivedrug education programme to create an informed community. Where there isawareness of the danger of drugs, the community can help to achieve a drug-freeSingapore. Drug preventionprograms, whether instituted by schools, community groups, or governmentagencies should include a close look at each type of drug use independently, todetermine the biggest problems in the community.

Consistently educating youths about the drugs they arefacing in real life is the first step toward protecting them from abuse.As with other undesirable behaviours, changes to the way youths view drugs aremost effective when intervention occurs at a young age. As drugs such ascannabis are now marketed as “cool” lifestyle drugs in some countries, it isimportant that we can reach out to our community especially the youths todispel myths about drugs, and convince them that taking drugs is harmful, is”not cool”, damages their mind and body, and inflicts pain and suffering onpeople whom they love.

Educators and youth counsellors are vital partners inguiding our youths towards making the right decisions and leading a drug-free,healthy lifestyle. They have an important role to play in engaging youths andkeeping them away from drugs. The preventive drug education is to empowerour youths with the knowledge of commonly abused drugs and prevent them fromfalling prey to drug abuse. Topics like general information on drugs, contactsand helplines, rehabilitation framework for youths, helping youths staydrug-free and legislation can be included in this education programme. We canseek support from schools to extend the outreach to students andyouths, given the primary role of schools and educators in moulding the livesof youths and children. The outreach can come in the form of assembly talks,static exhibition, sharing session or talk for parents.

Secondly, Singapore could further enhance theirmission to achieve a drug-free Singapore by committing to a rigorous, sustainedand effective enforcement of the law against drug abusers and drugtraffickers. The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) can collaborate with Singapore Home Team,as well as local and international partners, to stem the flow of drugs into andwithin Singapore.Lastly, Singapore can support programmes designedto treat and rehabilitate drug addicts and provide them ongoing aftercare andrehabilitation so that they may reintegrate into society. Mentalillness and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand. Those with a mental illnessmay turn to drugs as a way to ease the pain. Those suffering from some form ofmental illness, such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disordershould seek the help of a trained professional for treatment before it leads tosubstance abuse.

 We can work actively with the local community to garner strong societalsupport to create a drug-free Singapore. We can also work with like-mindedinternational partners to uphold the international space for a zero toleranceapproach to drug abuse.In conclusion, it is evident that Singaporeis facing a new generation of drugabusers who are younger, better educated and more susceptible to messages thatdrugs are not all bad. We have also identified that the contributing factors tothis trend are both sociological and psychological.

 In addition to theabove proposed integrated approach to solve the drug problem, Singapore canalso learn and adopt the Icelandic model. The model is based on research,followed by a combination of connecting with youth and encouraging them to havea healthy lifestyle, involving parents in their children’s lives, and changinglaws affecting teens. First, it ensures that those who work with youth have up-to-date data onyouth trends, collected via regular well-being surveys.

 Second, parents were urged to spend moretime with their children. Withthe government and municipalities reminding parents of the role they can play,asking them to ensure teenagers are home early, change started within families. Third, youth are encouraged to take uporganised activities.

 Fourth,changes in legislation have helped to support these moves. Youth below 18 and20 can no longer buy tobacco and alcohol respectively. Those aged between 13and 16 cannot be outdoors after 10pm in winter, and midnight in summer.


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