The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was first established by the United Nations in 1987 to strengthen global efforts towards a society free of drug abuse. Today, it serves as a reminder of the ongoing war that is being fought around the world on illicit drug use and trafficking. It also reminds us that, unless there is concerted, sustained effort, Hong Kong may be at risk of fighting a losing battle.
Recently, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported that youth drug-related offences in Hong Kong are up almost 1.5 times from the previous year - from 40 cases during 2012-13, to 97 cases in 2013-14. A total of 95 children, aged 10-15, were arrested for drug trafficking in the past year - nearly double the previous year's figures.
Many of those involved in these trafficking cases claimed that they were bribed into these activities, and were unaware of what they were being asked to transport. Most also admitted that they earned "quick cash", as little as HK$20. A 17-year-old, who was bribed into trafficking ketamine for HK$1,000, was recently sentenced to almost five years in prison.
The transactional nature of these trafficking cases is shocking, and they reflect a community of vulnerable teenagers who are uninformed of the severe consequences and dangers of the illicit drug trade dominated by organised crime groups.
According to the Central Registry of Drug Abuse, one-fourth of reported drug abusers are under 25. Nearly half of these young people initially took drugs to relieve anxiety, depression, and boredom, and eventually fell into drug abuse. While statistics may indicate a declining trend of reported drug abuse over the last few years, hidden drug use amongst young people is growing, and is much more difficult to detect.
Every young person has the power and ability to make informed choices about drugs; some of them simply do not understand the depth to which illicit drugs can destroy their futures. What young people need is ongoing engagement, education and awareness of the perils of drugs, along with understanding, guidance and support from peers, parents and teachers, who have a shared responsibility to keep informed about drugs.
Our role as Hong Kong citizens is to educate, prevent and support, and it is everyone's responsibility to help keep our young people healthy.
Let us prevent young people from being lured into taking or trafficking drugs. Together, we can work towards a healthy, drug-free Hong Kong.
Fern Ngai, chair, KELY Support Group