The number of people in Hong Kong taking methadone has surged by 15 per cent in the past year as a result of a heroin shortage. There are 7,000 people registered to take methadone, compared with about 6,100 last year. Chief Superintendent Kenny Ip Lau-chuen, the head of the Narcotics Bureau, said that the shortage followed an interception by Hong Kong officers and their mainland counterparts of more than 1,000kg of heroin on the mainland over the past 18 months. Some of the drugs were intended for Hong Kong. Mr Ip said the 6,000 active heroin addicts in Hong Kong needed a total of about 1.8kg of heroin a day, or 600kg a year. He said the shortage of heroin had led to a 50 per cent rise in the wholesale price of the drug, from $180,000 per kg early last year to $270,000 now. A gram of heroin was sold in the market at $466 in March, one-third more than it was a year ago. 'Purity of the drug in some cases is as low as 5 per cent,' Mr Ip said. But he said the number of newly registered heroin abusers dropped from 1,000 in 1992 to 829 in 2001. And with the comparatively high mortality rate of these abusers, Mr Ip believed the total number of people taking heroin would eventually fall. While Mr Ip believed the official number of registered heroin addicts showed an accurate picture of the problem, he admitted that the real problem of other drugs could not be truly reflected from the statistics. 'Frankly speaking, for other drugs like Ice, ketamine and Ecstasy, there is little chance for us to know the figures if we do not take law enforcement action. If you ask me, I believe the real figures are much higher than the number of registered abusers,' Mr Ip said. There were only 17 people registered as ketamine abusers in 1999, but the figures jumped to 1,763 last year after it became a popular rave party drug. But Mr Ip said the overall number of people arrested for drug related crimes was falling. There were 1,866 people arrested for drug offences in the first quarter this year, 16 per cent less than the last quarter of last year.