Despite more liberal attitudes toward marijuana in Singapore, authorities are maintaining their zero-tolerance approach. Recent studies show youth tend to view cannabis as harmless – but how true is this? We look at the risks posed by marijuana use and what parents can do to spot the warning signs.
Singapore has, for decades, maintained relatively low rates of drug abuse via its tough laws, strict enforcement and ongoing public awareness campaigns. However, attitudes towards drugs appear to be changing among the city-state’s younger generation.
There is increasing evidence that young people in Singapore are taking a more liberal attitude toward drugs, and in particular marijuana, as shifting global perceptions and the ability to buy drugs online has transformed the substance abuse landscape.
While most Singaporeans are strongly opposed to the use of any illegal drugs, authorities fear changing attitudes will see more young people becoming dependent on substances, sparking a growing need for drug addiction treatment.
Young Singaporeans’ Liberal Views on Cannabis and Other Drugs
Most recently, a survey by the National Council Against Drugs (NCADA) released in late April found that about a third of young people in Singapore think marijuana is not addictive, while 12.6 per cent feel it should be legalised. The survey also found that 16 per cent of respondents had a ‘liberal’ attitude towards drugs, compared to 11 per cent a year earlier.
This softening of attitudes among young Singaporeans is likely influenced to at least some extent by the legalisation of marijuana in many US states and more liberal attitudes towards the drug in many parts of the world. The Singapore government, however, is standing firm on its zero-tolerance stance towards all illegal drugs, including weed.
‘We should avoid dichotomising soft drugs and hard drugs because soft drugs consumption can lead to hard drug addiction,’ said NCADA chairman Hawazi Daipi.
Is Marijuana Really Addictive?
While this can be divisive question, the short answer is ‘yes’. Scientific research has shown that some marijuana users can experience significant withdrawal symptoms if they stop using the drug.
‘While not all marijuana users experience problems, nearly 3 of 10 marijuana users manifested a marijuana use disorder in 2012–2013,’ one US study found.
Withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, cravings or physical discomfort. Other studies suggest that people who start using marijuana in their mid-teens are more likely to form a dependence on the drug.
Nevertheless, dozens of US states have legalised marijuana for medical purposes while many have also legalised it for recreational use. While this will likely have a knock-on effect internationally, Singapore is not budging from its position.
‘Marijuana use increases the risk of cognitive impairment, mental illness and decline in IQ, particularly for youths,’ Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) advises in an information booklet for parents. It also points to only ‘moderate evidence’ that marijuana can be effectively used to treat medical conditions, while warning of the dangers of marijuana as a ‘gateway drug’.
The Effects of Marijuana Use
While it’s widely accepted that marijuana isn’t as dangerous or as addictive as ‘harder’ drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth, it can still have significant negative effects on users, even in the short-term.
Marijuana is bad for your health.
As it’s normally smoked in a pipe or as a joint, marijuana is immediately detrimental to any user’s health. Besides damaging the lungs, studies have found that even second-hand marijuana smoke can damage blood vessels.
Marijuana carries significant mental health risks.
Last year, scientists from the US, UK, Europe and Australia called for clear global public health warnings on the dangers of marijuana, warning that its use can lead to psychosis and even schizophrenia among vulnerable young people.
Marijuana can lead to abuse of other drugs.
The dangers of marijuana as a ‘gateway drug’ are well documented. While proponents of legalisation argue against this, there is strong evidence to suggest that the use of marijuana can lead to young people taking other, more dangerous drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Once someone has developed the contacts to source marijuana, they have already entered an underground network where other drugs are easily available.
Spotting the Warning Signs of Cannabis Addiction in Teens
When it comes to the prevention of drug use among teens, the importance of early drug abuse intervention can’t be overstated. For parents, this means being aware of the tell-tale signs of marijuana use. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Drug paraphernalia such as rolling papers, pipes, bongs and other marijuana-related accessories. Also look out for stickers, badges and other signs of involvement in marijuana culture.
- Small pin-point burns on your teen’s fingers or clothes
- Red eyes or suddenly beginning to use eye drops
- Demotivation, lethargy, isolation and/or a drop in academic performance
- Attempts to cover up the smell of marijuana smoke with incense, air fresheners or other products
- Giggling fits or laughing at inappropriate times
Treatment for Marijuana Addiction
If you suspect your teen may be abusing marijuana, it’s important to sit them down for an open, blame-free discussion where you can explain the dangers and allow them to voice their own concerns. Caught early enough, it’s possible for families to work through these issues on their own to nip the problem in the bud.
Addiction treatment centres in Singapore have seen a sharp rise in the number of young people seeking help for marijuana abuse disorders, with most brought to clinics by parents or other family members.
The Cabin Singapore offers an effective, outpatient marijuana addiction treatment programme that allow teens and young adults to continue with their education or other obligations while getting the help they need. Contact us today to learn more.
Residential Rehab for Behavioural and Substance Abuse Issues in Young Men
For more severe addictions, rehab centres such as The Edge in Thailand offer tailored inpatient marijuana treatment programs specifically designed for men aged 18-28. By providing inpatient treatment in a fresh environment and applying the very latest cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness and an adapted version of the 12 Steps, The Edge boasts one of the highest success rates for treating addicted young men in the region.
The Edge offers confidential over-the-phone assessments – contact the centre today to get your son the help he needs.