Government urged to educate parents about drug abuse

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 July, 2009, 12:00am

Parents in a district where voluntary drug testing on students will be tried later this year lack the knowledge and experience to deal with the results, community leaders warned yesterday.

The Tai Po Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations called on the government to provide resources to educate parents on how to deal with children who are found to be drug abusers.

Federation chairman Daniel Yuen Kwok-hing said no resources were provided specifically for drug education and counselling for parents.

'Parents are ignorant about drugs and they don't know what symptoms their children have after taking drugs,' said Mr Yuen, disclosing that he did not find out for a year that his own son was taking drugs, despite his experience working in a drug-treatment centre.

'They don't know how to help drug abusers who are undergoing or have completed rehabilitation.'

Mr Yuen, who previously worked at the Hei Ling Chau treatment centre, said some parents developed emotional problems after learning that their children were drug abusers. 'They cannot manage their own emotions let alone help their own children rehabilitate and quit the habit,' he said.

Some parents also became 'very paranoid' and suspected their children of taking drugs after they had been discharged from treatment centres even when they were not. 'This is very discouraging, and their children take drugs again,' he said.

Some did not even know that ketamine was sold in powdered form, not as a tablet, so did not suspect their children were peddling drugs even when they found small plastic bags of white powder.

To overcome this ignorance, Mr Yuen arranges tours to the Jockey Club Drug InfoCentre in Admiralty but cannot do it often because he lacks the resources to pay for bus hires and drinks.

The chairman of the Action Committee Against Narcotics, Daniel Shek Tan-lei, backed the association's call.

'Parental support and their involvement in counselling are vital to help young drug abusers,' said Professor Shek, of the department of applied social sciences at Polytechnic University. 'If parenting is good, youngsters might not even take drugs in the first place.'

Drug abuse was just a symptom of other problems which could include family problems, he said.

The relapse rate could be high if children who went home after rehabilitation at treatment centres were not carefully handled.

The head of the Lutheran Church's Cheer Lutheran Centre, Hezon Tang Kwok-hei, agreed.

'We handle our cases on a family basis, as family support is very important to help young drug abusers. Also, some parents have depression, anxiety and become paranoid after learning their children have drug problems,' Mr Tang said.

The centre, which helps drug abusers in Tai Po and North District, also arranges briefings for parents to teach them about the characteristics of different drugs and their impact on users' health.