Not enough effort going into tackling party drugs

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2005, 12:00am

The dangers of party drugs such as Ice and Ecstasy are well known - using them could cause death or brain damage. Yet that message is clearly not being given to Hong Kong's youngsters, who are turning to these sorts of stimulants in increasing numbers.

With school summer holidays here and the party season in full swing, the problem is expected to worsen.

As we report today, the number of people under the age of 21 caught with party drugs in the first four months of this year is up 10 per cent on the same period for 2004. Such drugs do not have easily noticeable side effects, so that figure - 515 - is believed to be just a fraction of the real number of users.

Determining the real extent of the problem is even more difficult because of the increasing trend of people going to the mainland for drugs. There, drugs are cheaper and police are perceived as being less vigilant.

Further evidence of the rising demand is revealed by the sharp increase in quantities seized by police. Raids in the first half of this year found 28kg of Ice, also known as methamphetamine, almost double the amount taken last year, while from January to April, 158,195 Ecstasy tablets were found, more than half the number for all of 2004. Another party drug, ketamine, has lost popularity because of impurities in the supply; nonetheless, 208kg of it have been seized so far this year.

Such figures are startling and show that arrests and police raids are not turning young people off the potentially dangerous high they are getting from party drugs. Instead, more and more are using them and at a younger age - those in the city's rehabilitation centres are as young as seven.

Part of the problem lies in the constantly falling price of Ice and Ecstasy, making such drugs increasingly accessible. The high volume of people and cargo, especially from the mainland, makes detection ever difficult.

In the past, the government has claimed its anti-drug campaigns are working, and although the overall number of arrests has fallen, the latest figures for young offenders reveal the message is not reaching the entire community.

Counsellors cite peer pressure as the foremost reason youngsters turn to drugs. But they are also concerned that schools and the government are not doing enough to warn of the dangers.

Creating a culture in which young people say 'no' to drugs is not easy; authorities worldwide are struggling to find a solution. But if trends are any indication, it is a problem that is only going to grow.

The government must allocate more resources to the fight, better focusing its campaigns and enlisting the help of identifiable role models. Only through intensive effort will our children be convinced to reject drugs.