Extension urged for drug testing scheme in Tai Po schools

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 June, 2010, 12:00am

A six-month extension to a voluntary drug testing trial in Tai Po schools may be considered to gather more data on the effectiveness of the scheme, the chairman of the government's narcotics advisory committee says.

The suggestion came after the government yesterday announced the result of the trial in which 1,975 pupils took urine tests and no confirmed positive cases were found.

A government commissioned study tracked the six-month trial, which started in December, but Professor Daniel Shek Tan-lei, chairman of the Action Committee Against Narcotics, said it may be worth considering an extra six months for the trial scheme in Tai Po so more data could be collected.

'If the trial could last for a year, it could possibly indicate any seasonal change on drug abuse by students, Shek said.

The study is expected to be completed within two months. After considering recommendations, the government would then decide the way forward, the Security Bureau said.

Apart from looking at the effectiveness of the trial, the study is also expected to cover other local and overseas experiences in school drug testing and suggest refinements and revisions to the scheme.

The voluntary drug test trial, carried out at 23 Tai Po secondary schools, is estimated to have cost HK$11 million.

More than 12,400 pupils were covered by the scheme and 2,495 of them were randomly selected for screening in urine tests.

A total of 1,975 pupils took the test and there were no positive cases. Some 459 were assessed as being not suitable for the test, according to their physical condition, 55 could not provide a urine specimen for the test at the relevant time, and six pupils refused to take the test.

A government spokesman said the scheme has been completed smoothly with the support of principals, teachers, social workers, parents and pupils of the participating schools.

All the pupils' personal information collected under the drug testing trial was protected under privacy rights.

Kwok Wing-keung, the chairman of the Association of Heads of Secondary Schools (Tai Po district), said the trial may have helped promote an anti-drug message among pupils. The effectiveness of the scheme could not just be based on whether a positive case was found.

Kwok said the association welcomed discussion with the government if the trial was extended in Tai Po schools, but he has reservations on the introduction of hair drug tests as schools had now got used to conducting the tests through urine specimens.

A pilot drug testing scheme that uses hair samples as an alternative to urine tests started this month in drug rehabilitation centres and at social outreach services. A strand of hair cut from near the crown of the head can show whether a person has taken drugs in the previous three months.

Test of the test

The total number of pupils involved in the trial was 1,975

Of this figure, the number who could not produce a urine sample at the requisite time was: 55

The number who refused to take the test was: 6