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When it comes to drugs, a different approach is possible

Singapore continues to double down on its “war on drugs” even as other countries move towards harm reduction approaches. Another way is possible.

Kirsten Han
Kirsten Han
6 min read

Special issues are only emailed to Milo Peng Funders, although you can always choose to forward this email to anyone you want. A version of this special issue was published by The News Lens International here; I've edited and added in a bit more for this issue!

Dr Jitendra Kumar Sen wasn’t trying to hurt anyone; he was trying to help. He’d found out that some of his patients had developed an addiction to codeine, a type of opioid contained in some cough syrups. They didn’t want to seek treatment from the Institute of Mental Health because they were afraid of the state finding out about their drug dependency.

Instead of reporting them to the authorities, Dr Sen prescribed a limited amount of the cough syrup to nine patients, keeping it off-the-books and collecting payment in cash. In return, the patients were required to commit to reducing their dependence on the drug. The doctor would also talk to them during consultation to try to better understand their personal circumstances.

For this, Dr Sen was fined S$6,000 for failing to maintain proper medical records. But while selling medication off-book is against the law, this case highlights some of the current issues with Singapore’s highly punitive drug policy.

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