Singapore has been actively combating drug-related crimes since its independence, given that it heavily relies on its community as the most valuable resource to sustain its economy. Due to the detrimental effect of drugs on society and the economy, the government enacted a highly repressive drug control law in 1973, imposing severe punishments, including long-term imprisonment, caning, and the death penalty, for those found guilty of breaking the laws.
Despite these strict measures, drug addiction still persists. While it is challenging to obtain hard drugs like heroin in Singapore, people may turn to cheaper alternatives like sniffing glue or excessive consumption of cough syrup, particularly codeine-based cough syrup. However, the sale of codeine-based cough syrup is illegal in Singapore without a valid prescription from a licensed doctor, and individuals caught breaking this law may face severe legal consequences, including imprisonment and fines. It is a continuous effort by the government to combat drug-related crimes and maintain a safe and healthy environment for its citizens.
What is Codeine?
Codeine is an opiate and prodrug of morphine used to treat pain, coughing and diarrhoea. It is found naturally in the sap of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. It is often found in prescription-strength cough syrups, or in a combination formulation with various other analgesics (for example, with acetaminophen) as a medication.
While it is typically used to treat mild to moderate degree of pain, it can be easily abused by users due to its euphoric side effects and becomes an addictive drug with potentially dangerous effects at high dosages.”
Codeine-based cough syrup abuse is a growing problem worldwide, and Singapore is no exception. It’s easy availability and low cost compared to other drugs make it a popular choice among those who seek to get high. As a result, the government of Singapore has taken strict measures to curb the abuse of codeine-based cough syrup in the country.
In Singapore, it is illegal to sell codeine-based cough syrup without a prescription from a licensed medical practitioner. Anyone caught selling or buying it without a valid prescription is liable to face legal consequences, including fines and imprisonment. Furthermore, pharmacies are required to keep a record of every sale of codeine-based cough syrup, and the amount sold is limited to prevent overuse.
Codeine-based cough syrup abuse can lead to severe health problems, including liver damage, seizures, and respiratory depression. Overdose of codeine-based cough syrup can also cause death. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the risks associated with its abuse and to seek professional help if one is addicted to it.
In conclusion, the government of Singapore recognizes the dangers of codeine-based cough syrup abuse and has put in place strict laws to prevent its abuse. It is important to follow these laws and regulations to avoid legal repercussions and safeguard one’s health.
How is it considered illegal to sales of cough syrup?
Generally, it is not illegal to sell codeine-based cough syrup in Singapore, but there are some laws regulating the proper sales of the medication.
Under the Singapore Poisons Act, pharmacists are not allowed to sell more than 240ml of codeine cough syrup to a customer at any one time. They also have to record the name and identity card number of the customer, and the quantity of codeine cough syrup sold daily in a book that is kept solely for this purpose.
A decade-long crime by a pharmacist
In 2016, one registered pharmacist, William Woo Tat Meng, sole proprietor of Community Pharmacy at Bukit Timah Plaza, illegally sold codeine-based cough syrup to customers with falsified records to keep his bad deed under the radar of law enforcement. But soon his act is caught after HSA officers stopped a 42-year-old man on 23rd April 2015 at 3 pm where he procured 14 bottles of 120ml Dhasedyl syrup which he paid 20 dollars for each bottle.
From the investigation findings, William has sold 220,440 bottles containing more than 2,450 litres of Dhasedyl syrup (codeine-based) to his customers over a period of nearly two years from May 2013 until April 2015, profiting at least S$ 244,529 from selling the cough syrup alone.
In addition, he has admitted that he has been selling Dhasedyl syrup for about 10 years. The 58-year-old sole proprietor was jailed for eight months and three weeks, becoming the first pharmacist to be found guilty of improper selling of codeine under the law.
There are also some other cases in which offenders are being caught with cough syrup including these few cases:
$1.25 million worth of illegal cough syrup seized
Singapore authorities have seized the largest haul of almost 2,000 litres of codeine cough syrup estimated to be worth S$1.25 million in street value as part of a crackdown in 2013. It was a three-month-long joint-agency operation by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) that took place from April to July.
Further investigation revealed that 3.8-litre canisters of illegal cough syrup were brought in under the guise of other products such as tyre shine, porcelain cleaners and degreasers.
The suspects brought the canisters of codeine to a residential unit and another rented storage facility, where they were processed and repackaged into smaller quantities. They were then distributed to the black market.
Stiffer Penalties For Sales Of Cough Syrup
Since the enactment of the Poisons Act, offenders could have faced up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 per charge for the offence, but in 2017, the government decided to tighten the screws on these offences and implemented harsher penalties since the legislation in 1987, nearly 30 years later on the codeine-related which took effect on 1st November the same year.
Offenders can now be fined up to S$ 50,000 on each charge – five times the previoious S$10,000 limit and/or jaiiled for up to years.
Seeking Help For Drug Addicts
The Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA) is one of the non-profit organizations in Singapore that provides support for individuals who are suffering from addiction to drugs. Established in 1972, SANA aims to educate the public about the dangers of drug abuse and to provide assistance to individuals who are struggling with drug addiction. They offer counselling services, rehabilitation programs, and community outreach initiatives to help those affected by drug abuse.
Another organization that can be approached for help is the National Addictions Management Service (NAMS). NAMS is part of the Institute of Mental Health and provides specialized services for individuals who are struggling with addiction to substances like drugs and alcohol. Their services include medical assessments, counselling, and medication-assisted treatment to help individuals overcome addiction and achieve long-term recovery.
It is important to remember that seeking help for addiction is not a sign of weakness, but rather a courageous step towards regaining control of one’s life. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, do not hesitate to reach out for help.
Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA)
2 Sengkang Square, Sengkang Community Hub, #05-01
Tel: 6732 1122
Fax: 6732 4564
Email: [email protected]
Opening Hours: Mon to Fri from 8.30 am to 10.00 pm
National Addictions Management Services (NAMS)
Block 9 (Level 1), Buangkok Green Medical Park
10 Buangkok View
Tel: 6-7326837 (6-RECOVER) (24-hour helpline), 6389 2000 (General Enquiries)
Email: [email protected] (general enquiries)