Only a quarter of secondary school pupils are aware that abusing drugs can be addictive, a survey has found, and the researcher warns that hidden drug addicts at schools are on the rise.
More than 10 per cent of 544 secondary school pupils who participated in the survey over the past two months had heard of their peers taking drugs. Two per cent had abused drugs themselves, according to the study by Polytechnic University and Christian Zheng Sheng College, a school that helps drug addicts.
But while more than half of the respondents agreed that drinking, smoking, playing computer games and using the internet could be addictive, only 24.5 per cent said taking drugs without prescriptions could have the same result.
This reflected weak vigilance against narcotics among youth, said Professor Daniel Shek Tan-lei, chair professor of the Department of Applied Social Sciences at the university. 'Some thought taking cough syrup was all right, but in fact even taking Panadol can be addictive,' Shek said.
He also noticed a trend of increasing hidden drug abuse among youth who were taking illegal drugs privately rather than in public places.
'People took drugs in discos and karaoke places in the past, but now they go to friends' homes. It's becoming harder to identify them,' Shek said.
He suggested there should be more social workers posted at schools so they could identify and help pupils with problems.
Macy Wong Mei-sze agrees. She started taking drugs when she left school after finishing Form Three. Wong lost her father when she was 10. 'I was a mess at that time. I lost myself and could not love anyone,' she said.
Wong, now 28, was arrested twice for drug possession eight years ago. She was ordered by a court to enter the Christian Zheng Sheng College on Lantau Island after her second arrest.
She now works at the drug-rehab school, offering counselling to students after five years of studies. 'Now I'm transformed,' she said.
Shek said users' drug preferences had changed, affecting a decision to seek treatment.
In the past, drug abusers usually sought help after about 18 months because the side effects of the drugs they took, such as cocaine and heroin, were strong.
But now people waited up to four years to seek help as the side effects of ketamine and Ecstasy - both known as party drugs - were not as obvious.