Ketamine 'is new generation's heroin'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 July, 2004, 12:00am

Addiction levels are rising, warns narcotics chief

Ketamine is now as popular as heroin was 20 years ago, especially among younger drug addicts, and its popularity is increasing despite repeated police crackdowns, a police chief said yesterday.

'If youngsters' demand continues to rise, the problem of ketamine abuse will never be solved,' Narcotics Bureau head Chief Superintendent Kenny Ip Lau-chuen said.

Central Registry of Drug Abuse figures show 581 ketamine abusers under 21 were recorded in the first quarter of this year, compared to 323 in the same period last year.

A total of 612 people in that age group were arrested on ketamine-related charges in the first quarter of the year, compared to 278 for the same period last year.

The amount of ketamine seized also trebled to 52.5kg in the first six months of this year, while 27kg of heroin was seized in the same period.

Mr Ip believes the drug's powerful anaesthetic effect is why it is so popular.

He said youngsters not only took the drug in entertainment spots but also in public parks and even their homes.

Comparing today's ketamine problem with heroin abuse two to three decades ago, Mr Ip said: 'The problem of heroin was once very serious. I don't want to see that we have to take 10 to 20 years to lower the number of ketamine abusers, like we have done in the case of heroin.'

Mr Ip said the drug's low production cost and high profit margin helped boost its popularity.

He said 1 gram of ketamine cost $2 to produce in Shenzhen and retailed for about $150 in Hong Kong.

However, ketamine produced in India and the Philippines, where the drug was not illegal, was even cheaper than that made on the mainland and those countries had become the new 'sources'.

Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore and Malaysia, were also witnessing an upsurge in ketamine abuse, Mr Ip said.

He added that the United Nations was also keeping an eye on the issue.