Bladder agony of young drug abusers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am


Young drug abusers suffer painful bladder problems for up to 10 years rather than seek help, doctors treating them at a recently established clinic have found.

In the worst cases they may have to use the bathroom every five minutes leaving them unable to work or sleep properly.

This has emerged after 41 patients sought help at the Youth Urological Treatment centre opened by Chinese University at Prince Of Wales Hospital in December.

Some had their bladder capacity reduced to as little as 10 per cent of normal, centre director Dr Tam Yuk-him said yesterday.

'They become unproductive and their lives are being wasted. We wish they could have been treated earlier,' said Tam who is also an associate professor in paediatric urology at the university and the hospital.

The condition can be reversed if treated early but some patients at the centre are beyond the point of no return.

'Many drug users don't know that delaying treatment will lead to bladder damage deteriorating to a point that it becomes irreversible even when they stop using drugs and receive treatment,' Tam said.

Drug abuse damages the bladder because the body dissolves toxins and passes them out in urine. The toxins may cause inflammation in the bladder walls, reducing their flexibility.

Fear of their drug use being discovered deters young abusers from seeking help.

A teenage student, who only identified himself as Chun, said it was three months after he found blood in his urine that he finally consulted doctors at the centre.

'I was afraid my family might find out about my drug problem. I tried drinking less water,' said the secondary school pupil, who started taking drugs six years ago and started using high doses last year. He used to need the bathroom several times an hour, and sometimes had to relieve himself in back alleys.

Tam said when Chun first came to the centre, his bladder volume was only a third of normal. As his case was not severe, he recovered to 80 per cent capacity after six weeks of treatment and no drug abuse.

Social worker Chan Wai-chung, from the Hong Kong Children and Youth Services' Sane Centre, said some of the drug abusers suffering from urinary problems did not know where to seek help.

The centre aims to treat about 150 patients a year.


Average age at which youngsters first try drugs, according to a 2011 study by the Hong Kong Journal of Paediatrics