IMH Survey Reveals 41.8% of Drug Users in Singapore Initiated Substance Abuse Before Age 18


The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) recently conducted the “2022 Health and Lifestyle Survey,” shedding light on illicit drug consumption among Singapore residents.

The comprehensive study involved 6,509 randomly selected individuals aged 15 to 65 years, including both Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents.

One of the key findings of the survey indicated that approximately 0.7% of Singapore residents had consumed illicit drugs at least once in the past 12 months. These results provide valuable insights into the prevalence and nature of drug consumption in the country.

The survey also delved into the reasons why individuals abstained from illicit drugs, revealing that the strict legal consequences (74.4%), the possibility of arrest (65.4%), and the awareness of adverse health effects (65.4%) were the top three deterrents cited. These findings highlight the effectiveness of Singapore’s stringent drug laws and the success of public awareness campaigns in discouraging drug use.

The majority of respondents (82.1%) perceived the consumption of illicit drugs to be highly detrimental to health. Regardless of the type of drug and the frequency of consumption, the majority of participants recognized the significant risks and potential harms associated with illicit drug use.

Notably, the survey exposed the early onset of illicit drug consumption, with the average age of initiation reported as 15.9 years old. Furthermore, 41.8% of those who had consumed drugs revealed that they had started using substances before the age of 18.


The most commonly cited drugs consumed were cannabis (45.9%), ‘ecstasy’ (21.2%), and methamphetamine (18.5%). Among those who had consumed drugs, the majority indicated that cannabis was the first illicit substance they tried (51.9%), followed by ‘ecstasy’ (18.6%) and heroin (3.2%).

Source : CNB Singapore

Regarding the locations of drug consumption, residences were most frequently mentioned, with 30.1% of participants admitting to using drugs at home, and 19.1% stating that they had consumed drugs at a friend’s place. Overseas locations were also mentioned, accounting for 9.5% of the responses.

When exploring the motivations behind drug consumption, curiosity (21.6%) emerged as the most commonly cited reason. Other prominent factors included the belief that drugs would help with personal problems (19.7%) and peer influence (11.9%).


In an alarming correlation, the survey discovered that individuals who had consumed drugs had a higher prevalence of mental disorders. Among the identified disorders were clinical depression, clinical insomnia, self-reported depression or major depressive disorder, self-reported bipolar disorder, and self-reported anxiety disorder.

These findings emphasize the need for continued efforts in drug prevention and mental health support. By maintaining strict laws and increasing awareness of the harms associated with illicit drug use, Singapore aims to safeguard the well-being of its residents and promote a drug-free society.

The IMH survey serves as a valuable resource for policymakers, healthcare professionals, and the community at large, enabling a deeper understanding of illicit drug consumption trends and facilitating targeted interventions to address this pressing issue.

New inter-ministry committee to look into drug use among youths

Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K. Shanmugam, has revealed plans to establish the Inter-Ministry Committee on Drug Prevention for Youths in response to a recent study conducted by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). The study highlighted that the average age at which Singaporeans and permanent residents begin using drugs is 15.9 years.

Minister Shanmugam made this announcement during his visit to Pertapis Halfway House, where he also launched a program aimed at equipping residents with valuable work skills. In an interview, he emphasized the importance of a multifaceted approach to address the issue, including efforts in homes through parental involvement, in schools, within the community, and even during national service.

“That is why we need to work with the parents, with the community, with the schools, national service – in a variety of different ways. And send the message, give them alternatives, give them opportunities to think about it, think carefully, and try to keep them out of trouble,” Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K. Shanmugam said in an interview.

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