Growing threat of Ice abuse in Singapore

With tumbling street prices and more arrests among new and repeat abusers, Singapore's Ice problem is likely to spread further - and faster - in the years ahead.

Crystal methamphetamine is now the No.2 drug of choice here after heroin.

And even the authorities' bumper haul of more than 50kg of the dangerous narcotic last year could be merely an indication of a much larger problem, said analysts.

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) told The Sunday Times that its street price has fallen from between $250 and $280 a gram in 2011 to about $200 now.

"With record production of Ice flooding the region, drug syndicates have the ability to price the drug to make it attractive, ensnaring many into its deathly embrace," said CNB spokesman James Tak.

The effects of Ice abuse include brain damage, kidney failure, accelerated ageing, severe weight loss and loss of teeth.

The 30 per cent fall in street price is substantial, as the cost of crystal methamphetamine had largely held steady here for the past five years.

While the CNB's annual drug report released last week said about 85 per cent of the Ice seized last year was not intended for the Singapore market, experts said indicators suggested there is strong local supply.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a December report on Asia that street prices are affected by how pure the drug is, and whether efforts to stem supply are successful.

Unlike heroin, the purity of Ice in Singapore has held steady at close to 80 per cent over the past five years, while the outsized seizure numbers have done little to push up street prices.

The price of heroin on streets here has fallen some 30 per cent since 2009, but that is consistent with heroin here now considered "low-purity", said Mr Gary Lewis, the Bangkok-based UNODC representative for the region.

"The price does not depend on how many kilos are seized, but how many more suppliers are coming in with all these drugs," said Mr Robin Tay, programme director for halfway house The New Charis Mission.

"It's like any other commodity: the more the supply, the cheaper it gets."

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