Teaching the teachers
DRUG addiction problems have always gone hand in hand with Hong Kong's long history of involvement in the drug trade. However, the recent sharp rise in abuse by young people is cause for concern and requires urgent and serious action.
A rising trend in drug use has been clear for some time. The latest 62.3 per cent rise in the number of new users under 21 may be due to improved detection rather than a real increase in consumption. But the underlying trend cannot be so easily explained away.
Even before the latest figures were compiled, the Government had appealed to voluntary agencies and social workers to help. But resources are tight, and assistance must be a two-way street. The Government must not only commit greater resources to socialwork, both in schools and outside, but it must also step up drug education. That is not merely a question of classroom work, although informing children of the dangers is certainly a key area for improvement.
Parents and teachers must be taught how to recognise the tell-tale signs of abuse among children, and how to approach the subject without driving wayward teenagers into still more self-destructive behaviour. They must also learn when not to panic. Raisingalarm bells will only have the opposite effect.
Nevertheless the public must be persuaded that teenage addiction is not a myth and that all young people are at risk, whatever their background. Unless the problem can be discussed openly and objectively, it cannot be tackled effectively.
A priority must be to take the glamour out of drugs. There is nothing magical about a young life being ravaged by addiction. But there are encouraging signs that abuse is now receiving the attention it deserves in Government circles. The Narcotics Bureau's recent establishment of a monitoring system to find out the reasons for increased use was long overdue. But that small start is hardly enough to deal with a problem which Western experience shows is not one that can be solved by policing and law enforcement alone.