EVEN as the number of drug offenders drops, the Central Narcotics Bureau is seeking to fight ketamine's recently acquired position as the drug of choice by tightening penalties for traffickers.
The bureau decided to act after ketamine an anaesthetic displaced heroin as the most popular drug among abusers last year.
The bureau will ask Parliament at its Sept 19 session to reclassify ketamine from a Class B controlled drug to a Class A drug.
This will increase a trafficker's mandatory sentence to five years in jail and five strokes of the cane, from three years and three strokes.
Class A drugs, such as cocaine and Ecstasy, are considered more dangerous and carry stiffer penalties for trafficking and abuse.
The bureau announced the move in its biannual drug situation report on Tuesday.
Bureau deputy director S. Vijakumar said later that attacking the supply chain is part of its strategy to reduce the number of ketamine abusers.
In 2002, ketamine abusers accounted for just 8% of all drug abusers.
The figure rose to 28% in 2003 and again to 32% last year.
In the first six months of this year, 91 ketamine abusers were arrested, compared to 182 in the first half of last year.
Abuse of another synthetic drug, Nimetazepam or Erimin-5, has increased.
Ninety abusers were arrested in the first half of this year, up from 30 in the same period last year. The Straits Times/ANN