THE number of female drug addicts is on the increase, a narcotics official said yesterday. The Central Registry of Drug Abuse recorded 666 women drug abusers in the first quarter of this year, compared with 620 in the same period last year. This compares to a 7.1 per cent fall in all drug abusers reported in the quarter to 6,459 from 6,956. Commissioner for Narcotics Alasdair Sinclair said women took drugs for the same reasons as men - curiosity, peer influence or depression about family, lovers, school or work. 'It may have something to do with the changing position of women and girls in our society. 'Nowadays there are more opportunities available to them compared to the past. While it's generally a good thing, in this context, it may not be.' He said women addicts often became prostitutes to raise money. The number of those reported for the first time - 1,014 - represents a decrease of 21.2 per cent. Mr Sinclair said the number of women drug abusers had gone up gradually over the past decade. The trend would be studied. And the government-subsidised Society for the Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers would expand its services. Mr Sinclair said the voluntary agency, which provided the only residential treatment for women addicts, had more patients than it could handle. Sponsorship by the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club will allow the agency to move its centre from Sha Tin to Sheung Shui this year and will allow it to treat more addicts. The Correctional Services Department runs two treatment centres for women addicts convicted of crimes. It has a total capacity of 100. The statistics, presented to the Action Committee Against Narcotics, also showed an increase in the number of young addicts in Tuen Mun (from 14.8 to 16.3 per cent) and Yuen Long (from 6.3 to 9.0 per cent). 'Tuen Mun tends to be populated by young families. In many cases, both parents leave home early in the morning and return late at night,' he said. 'There's quite a long time when the children are out of school but the parents are not there to look after them.' For drug abusers under 21, the total number reported was 1,333. While this represents a drop of 7.8 per cent from 1,446, more were reported as addicts without a job or convicted with criminal offences. The percentages increased from 47.5 to 50.9 per cent, and from 54.6 to 58.1 per cent respectively. Two voluntary agencies are to be given funds to run two additional residential treatment centres and a counselling centre for drug abusers. The action committee selected the Caritas and the Hong Kong Christian Service each to set up and operate a residential treatment centre for young heroin abusers. Caritas will also run a counselling centre in the New Territories for abusers of other drugs. The new services are part of the $30 million package of measures announced at a summit meeting in March by Governor Chris Patten, to combat the growing problem of drug abuse by young people.