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Drug abuse is a destroyer of lives, families, and entire communities. The Singapore Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), a division of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), is the country’s primary drug enforcement agency. Remaining on the frontline of the anti-drug effort is the agency’s primary focus. One of the ways they accomplish that feat is by banding together with community leaders and medical professionals.

Singapore’s approach to keeping drugs out of communities is based on harm prevention. It’s a proactive approach that is making headway. During the 2020 Harm Prevention Seminar, an event held to share information regarding using prevention as a weapon, Mrs. Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs, said, “The fundamental principle underlying Singapore’s approach to drugs is to prevent harm to our people and society in the first place,” said Minister Teo. “This is clearly much more effective than letting the drug problem fester and only then, after it has happened, try to reduce the harm.”

Let’s take a look at the key components the CNB uses to wage war against illicit drug use.

Preventitive education regarding the dangers of drug use

Teachers are vital partners in educating youth in the dangers of abusing drugs, potential of addiction, and the effects drugs have on families and communities. The CNB provides them with classroom materials in the from of a Teacher’s Resource Package. It’s intended to assist teachers to equip their students with the knowledge they need to live a drug-free lifestyle.

The CNB also distributes information regarding the penalties associated with drug use and trafficking. It’s found to be a useful deterrent as well. In a promotional poster, the MHA stressed the following:

  • Higher awareness of penalties lessens the likelihood someone decides to traffic drugs.
  • Someone is less likely to traffic drugs if they think about being caught and punished.
  • Traffickers who have been made aware of penalties chose to reduce the amount of drugs trafficked to minimize the potential of punishment.

Tough laws that are stringently enforced

Singapore’s laws regarding drug use are among the strictest worldwide. Marijuana, cocaine, opium, heroin, “ice,” ketamine, also known as Special K, and ecstasy are among the drugs listed as “controlled drugs” according to the Singapore Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA).

Being in possession of one of the controlled drugs on the list can get you a maximum prison sentence of ten years, a fine of $20,000—or both. Repeat offenders or a previous offender who fails to provide a urine specimen as directed will be imprisoned for five to seven years and receive three to six strokes of the cane.

If the police have a reasonable suspicion that you are impaired by drug use, say after a traffic accident, perhaps, they may immediately request that you submit to a hair or urine drug test. Failure to comply to a urine test earns you a sentence of up to ten years in prison, a $20,000 fine, or both. Refusing a hair test? A maximum of two years imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, or both.

Drug trafficking is a very serious offense in Singapore. The term includes selling, transporting, distributing, delivering, or just offering to do these things finds you guilty. People found to have drugs in their possession that are over the limit set in the MDA can result in a trafficking charge—even if the person truly intended to keep the drugs for their personal use.

The penalty for drug trafficking ranges from imprisonment to cane strokes to the mandatory death penalty. If the person convicted can prove they were only acting as a courier, the death penalty can be avoided. They receive a sentence of life in prison and up to 15 cane strokes instead.

Structured Rehabilitation and Aftercare Programmes

If you are arrested for drug use and it’s suspected you are a drug addict, the CNB can order you to have a medical examination or be subjected to a drug test. If warranted, you can be ordered to one of the country’s Drug Rehabilitation Centers (DRCs) for a period of six months up to three years. This option is offered to first and second-time offenders—if you show up in court a third time, you will face the long-term sentence.

Together, the battle will be won

Employers aren’t prohibited from drug testing employees, however, they are by no means delegated to do so either. Rather than searching for “drug testing near me” to locate a company that can help, business owners assume that the police will handle the situation. And, they’re right. Notifying them of your suspicion is all that’s necessary to get the ball rolling.


The MHA is determined to see that Singapore is a drug-free country and continues to seek new ways to meet that goal. In 2021, there were around 2,700 people arrested for drug abuse in Singapore. That’s a decrease of 300 arrests from the year prior—that’s clearly a step in the right direction.


If you know of someone who is considering using drugs, urge them to reconsider before it’s too late for them to turn back. Drug abuse leads to addiction. Addiction leads to lives, families, and communities being adversely affected—some never to recover. This shouldn’t be so and Singapore officials are committed to seeing an end to it.

Choosing to live a drug-free lifestyle should be a no-brainer. For those who need a strong incentive to refrain, the CNB has the resources needed to help them understand the dangers involved… And a stiff penalty waiting should they get caught not heeding them.

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