UN reports HK's abuse of crystal meth is rising fast

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 November, 2010, 12:00am

A United Nations report has highlighted the growing problem of methamphetamine drug abuse in Hong Kong.

The detailed analysis by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 36 per cent of registered drug users in the city abuse ketamine, which has become the primary drug of use among young people.

While this comes as little surprise, the report, entitled 'The Patterns and Trends of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants and Other Drugs in Asia and the Pacific', also states that the use of methamphetamine - or crystal meth - is spiralling upwards.

The powerful stimulant is used by 8 to 9 per cent of the city's drug-abusing population. About 10 to 15 per cent of reported drug users are under the age of 21.

The report says that in the first three months of last year alone, there were 1,050 registered crystal meth users in the city.

The report also says that 'more than 40 million methamphetamine pills were seized in China in 2009, up from 6.2 million pills in 2008'.

'Increased trafficking of methamphetamine pills from Myanmar and significant domestic methamphetamine manufacture pose a serious threat,' it says.

'The 391 illicit drug manufacturing laboratories dismantled in 2009 in China represent a 60 per cent increase compared with the total number dismantled in 2008.'

The continued rise and use of meth does not end there.

In the city's latest crime figures released on Friday, the amount of methamphetamine, also known as Ice, seized by law enforcement agencies was up 230 per cent in the first 10 months of this year, from 30kg to 99kg.

Professor Karen Laidler, who works in the department of sociology at the University of Hong Kong and who specialises in drug use and trends, said that globally, Asia ha the largest proportion of amphetamine-type stimulant users.

'In terms of Asia itself, meth is probably the biggest of these amphetamine-type stimulants,' Laidler said. 'Thailand is an interesting case in point, because it went from a heroin society to a meth society.

'The question begs to be asked then, given meth's popularity in places like Thailand, the Philippines and Japan - is the same going to happen here in Hong Kong and China? It's hard to say.

'Meth use has increased in terms of reported cases here, but whether it's going to take off like it has in other countries in the region is another question.

'The jury is still out on what exactly the future holds, but it definitely bears monitoring.'

A raid on Hong Kong's first known 'meth lab' in July led to concerns that the city may now be, like the rest of southern China, a top exporter of one of the key components of methamphetamine.

The operation, based in a Kwai Chung factory, was capable of producing 200kg of high-grade methamphetamine worth HK$150 million in just three days.

In August, New Zealand customs broke up a drug ring that smuggled up to NZ$17 million (HK$99 million) worth of pseudoephedrine, which arrived over 12 months at Auckland International Airport in machine parts imported from Hong Kong.

Ephedrine or pseudoephedrine is a key component in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Home brew

Hong Kong's first 'meth factory' was capable of producing this amount of high-grade methamphetamine: 200kg