Youngsters warned over illegal drug use

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2011, 12:00am


Taking illegal drugs can damage young people's thinking abilities and their emotional state, according to a new study.

It found that 22 per cent of young people surveyed who had taken drugs such as cocaine scored poorly on cognitive skills tests. When it came to emotions, 46 per cent admitted having serious anxiety problems, and 25 per cent considered themselves deeply depressed.

The study was conducted by Kwai Chung Hospital and the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups.

It involved 105 people between the ages of 13 and 21 in Kwai Chung; 81 had taken drugs and 24 had not. Seventy per cent of the users said they had their first drug experience between the ages of 13 and 16.

Of the 22 per cent linked to cognitive difficulty, a third were clearly shown to have cognitive problems - including forgetfulness, inability to concentrate and inability to learn and retain new skills, among other issues. Just under two-thirds got low scores for cognitive ability.

Leo Man Chap-mo, a Federation of Youth Groups worker who was involved in the study, said: 'This test is relatively simple and basic. So if someone couldn't even pass, it means they have serious [cognitive] problems.

'Those who scored around the passing margin are probably cognitively impaired, because healthy young people would do a lot better than that.'

A 19-year-old girl who had been an addict for seven years said: 'I couldn't remember things. I couldn't do any mental calculations - even simple addition I needed to count on my fingers to calculate.' Kitty Wu Kit-ying, a senior clinical psychologist at Kwai Chung Hospital who was involved in the study, said such cognitive damage could persist for a long time and even be permanent.