Drug and Substance Abuse


“Just once won’t hurt”

“Don’t worry I’ll snap out of it… what harm can a pill do?”


It looks harmless. It feels like fun. But it only takes one pill to send someone into trouble. Just one pill… But, how can a pill so small do so much?

Just a Pill

We sometimes see it in parties and there may be times where we might hear our friends taking it. It is said to be just a party drug. So what harm can it do? Your friends are still fine so it might not be that bad after all, right?

Before we find out why drugs are so addictive, let’s find out what exactly is pleasure – the main motivation behind a lot of addictive behaviours.

One of life’s gifts is the ability to experience pleasure. Our brains are finely-tuned with cells called neurons, which are constantly communicating to shape how we think, feel and act.  Upon experiencing a pleasurable object or action such as hugging, sweets or even sex, the brain will release its pleasure chemical called dopamine.

Dopamine helps to control the brain's reward and pleasure centres. It also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and enables us not only to recognise rewards, but to take action to move towards them.

Oogachaga had the pleasure of inviting Mr Tan, a former drug addict, to share his experience on how some pills got him into a lot of trouble.

Tan was a top-student in an all-boys’ school in Singapore. As a scholar, he held senior management positions in large organisations, and was also a university lecturer in NUS.

With such great impressive credentials, what caused his fall from grace?

Drugs can affect anyone, regardless of their socio-economic background. This was especially so for Mr Tan, who experimented with a pill that was offered to him by an acquaintance during a party.

He remembers thinking to himself, “But it is only a small pill so, it shouldn’t be that powerful, right?”

However, research has shown that recreational drugs such as methamphetamine not only give its users high burst of pleasure and energy, but they also elevate the sexual arousal of users. Users can thus go on to have multiple sexual intercourse without ejaculation, and providing energy to last through extended group sex sessions.

In fact, the use of synthetic toxic materials such as methamphetamine unnaturally raises dopamine levels in the brain by up to 1200%. Nothing else in life can have such an effect of artificially raising levels of dopamine.. 


From then on, Tan was hooked. He began to lead a double-life of a drug user on the verge of addiction. Eventually, he was nabbed by the authorities and charged for drug possession. Tan ended up spending 6 months in a Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) and was released for good behaviour, but was placed under house arrest for another 6 months.

The experience in DRC left a mark on Tan and he was subsequently diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition which required seeking psychiatric help.

One may ask why he knowingly went through all that pain and trouble. Shouldn’t he have been aware of the repercussions resulting arising from drugs abuse?

Tan recalls that he was indeed fully aware of the consequences, but as it was offered to him by someone he thought was trustworthy, in a social environment surrounded by people he knew, he therefore let his guard down. It was, after all, just a pill.

Regardless of whether you are addicted to certain substances (drugs, alcohol) or behaviours (sex, gambling), addiction becomes a problem when it interferes with your normal functioning as a person – at home, at work, with friends or family.

Should you be offered an unknown drug or substance, know that you have the right to decline. Saying “NO” does not necessarily make you less of a person; it can potentially empowers you, as you are showing that you are making your own decisions and taking charge of your own life.

On how to help someone who is addicted to drugs, Tan has this advice: sometimes, there is only so much friends and family members can do. You can try, but ultimately, it is down to the addict himself to get himself out of it and seek help.

Sobering thought for all of us.

For community and professional resources, check out this page.