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Marijuana abuse no laughing matter

This article is more than 12 months old

Cannabis made him happy, so much so he would laugh constantly.

But the drug is a gateway to stronger drugs, warned a former abuser, who wanted to be known only as Nigel, 37.

Known also as marijuana, ganja and pot, cannabis, which is usually smoked or used in food, can cause distorted thinking and perception as well as paranoia. Prolonged use can lead to addiction. More cannabis abusers were arrested last year - 183, up from 142 in 2012.

Nigel started doing cannabis daily at age 14 after he was introduced to it at a party. His two brothers also did drugs.

"It was acceptable in my circle. I even dealt in cannabis at some point and certain girls found me cool," he said.

Cannabis was considered attractive at the time as people felt the repercussions were less harsh, he said.

"We thought that if we got caught, maybe we would just be fined. Also, a lot of friends studied overseas - Australia, the US - where it's easily available."

At 19, he was caught for consuming and possessing cannabis and served a year's probation.

But that did not stop him. At 20, he had got so used to cannabis that he craved something stronger and turned to heroin.

"That ruined everything. I spent all my inheritance on heroin after my parents died. I was out on my ass, living on the streets.

"I had no more money and had to steal. I was afraid that I would hurt someone just to get money," he said.

So Nigel decided to kick his addiction. He had heard about The New Charis Mission halfway house and got himself admitted in 2010. Today, he is a youth mentor with the Mission and a prisons counsellor.

Central Narcotics Bureau director Ng Ser Song yesterday warned about the rising threat of cannabis.

He said: "Globally, some jurisdictions have relaxed their stance on the abuse of cannabis, with many seeing it as something relatively harmless. They cannot be more wrong. Start on the damaging path of drug abuse and it will lead to harm, not just on yourself but also your loved ones."