Ms Neeti Iyer

Singapore Prison Service, Psychological Services Branch

Development of the Drug Abuse Thinking Scale

Ms Neeti Iyer

Neeti graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Psychology from the National University of Singapore, and a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology and Mental Health from the University of Manchester. She currently works as a psychologist with the Singapore Prison Service. Her primary role involves conducting assessments and interventions for mentally ill offenders, and offenders with a history of violent or sexual offending. She has also been involved in several research projects on the role of socialisation in drug abuse, ‘nudging’ interventions to increase supervision compliance, and intellectual disability amongst prisoners. She is particularly interested in the treatment of offenders with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance use disorders. In future, she hopes to work closely with dually diagnosed offenders in a variety of settings and countries.

Aims. As more than half of Singapore ‘s inmate population in 2015 are drug offenders (69.5%; SPS, 2016), it is important to identify local drug abusers ‘ thinking. There is a lack of valid scales measuring drug specific thinking rather than general criminal thinking. This study aimed to conceptualise drug abuse thinking and develop a scale measuring drug abuse thinking that would be suited for the local population.

Design. Interviews with local experts and inmates were conducted to conceptualise and understand the Singaporean drug abusers ‘ thinking. Thematic analysis was used to code the transcripts. After conceptualisation, a drug abuse thinking scale was developed to measure drug specific thinking in the local context.

Setting. The study was set in Singapore ‘s Changi Prison Complex.

Participants. For the conceptualisation of drug abuse thinking, interviews were conducted with 14 experts and 4 inmates. 10 existing inmate transcripts were also used. The drug abuse thinking scale was then developed using a sample of 226 inmates with drug abuse history.

Findings and Conclusion. Drug abuse thinking was defined using 21 codes which could be grouped into 5 themes: distorted consequential thinking, self-focused, minimizing effects of drug taking, externalising one ‘s responsibility for drug use, and dysfunctional coping using drugs. Out of the 21 codes, only 11 could be used to develop a 37-item drug abuse thinking scale (DATS). The themes and codes defining drug abuse thinking could be used for interventions and/or assessments. In addition, the 37 item DATS could be used to measure change in rehabilitation programmes.


– Ms Phua Hong Ling (Singapore Prison Service) – Ms Lin Liangyu April (Singapore Prison Service) – Dr Mark Toh (Singapore Prison Service) – Dr Jasmin Kaur (Singapore Prison Service) – Dr Gabriel Ong (Singapore Prison Service) – Mr Julian Addison (independent)

Conflicts of interest:

No conflict of interest