When their mate's eyes popped wide open, vacant and unblinking, and didn't close again, that's when the panic set in. Frantic attempts to wake him, to break his wide-eyed stare, failed, and by the time he was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it was too late. Life for Manish Gurung was over - dead at 15 from a heroin overdose. He had become another drug death statistic among Hong Kong's ethnic minorities. While the Narcotics Division of the Security Bureau hasn't noticed an increase in the incidence of drug abuse among these groups, social worker and founder of Unison Hong Kong for Ethnic Equality, Fermi Wong Wai-fun, certainly has. Since 2000, she has seen more ethnic minority youngsters - some as young as 11 - with drug problems. And she is adamant that the problem is getting worse among Nepalese and Pakistani youths. She said that so far this year, six Nepalese aged from 15 to 24 had died from overdoses. All lived in Jordan and Yuen Long, home to the biggest Nepalese community in Hong Kong, and the areas in which Ms Wong does most of her work. She said that last year, three young Nepalese and a Pakistani died, while about seven were admitted to hospital due to overdoses. The latest Narcotics Division figures showed that in the first quarter of this year, the Central Registry of Drug Abuse recorded 797 drug addicts aged below 21, compared with 2,130 for all of 2003. After six years of working closely with these ethnic communities, Ms Wong has identified isolation from the wider community, the closeness of their own communities, and ignorance about heroin as the main reasons for a rise in drug abuse. 'Drugs help them escape from reality. They have told me about their loneliness and how they feel isolated from society,' Ms Wong said. She said unlike Chinese teenagers in Hong Kong, most ethnic minorities were from poorer backgrounds. They could not afford entertainment and gained no satisfaction from study because, with Cantonese as a second language, attaining even average grades proved difficult. 'Their culture is that they love sharing. They share everything - money, cigarettes ... even drugs,' she said, adding that the drug problem was aggravated because the community was small and close-knit. 'There is no such thing called heroin in their home countries, especially in Nepal. They have a drug they call 'brown sugar', which is in fact the raw material for heroin, and they have other drugs - marijuana and cannabis resin - but they do not have heroin there,' Ms Wong said. 'They just don't know what it is. They are ignorant about it and they don't consider it a highly addictive drug.' Ms Wong said she had also noticed a special characteristic among Nepalese heroin users. 'Unlike Chinese drug addicts, whose appearances and physiques drastically change after the regular consumption of heroin - they become very thin and fatigued - the Nepalese seemed to undergo little change. 'They told me that they have to take it before going to work or school, or else they feel pain in their joints and start sweating,' Ms Wong said, adding that lack of appearance change might lead to teenage Nepalese paying little attention to the dangerous effects of the drug. Ms Wong said many of the Nepalese and Pakistani teenage drug addicts she had come into contact with said they wanted to come clean, but they did not know where and how. 'The problem is that there are too few social workers paying attention to them,' she said. 'First, they do not speak Cantonese and second, social workers always view their targets as Chinese.' The Narcotics Division had offered 1,365 seminars to 102,800 primary and secondary students - including South Asian minorities - in 2003, as well as issuing pamphlets in English to instil drug prevention knowledge to ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. But Ms Wong said it was not enough. 'Almost all Chinese-speaking people in Hong Kong know the impacts of this drug ... And they know where they can ask for help if they are addicted, thanks to government promotions through out the years,' she said. 'But I can tell you that most of the ethnic minorities in the city know little about the drug, who they can talk to and where they can quit, because most of the promotions are in Cantonese. More social workers should be deployed to help them.' Manish's death rattled friends Sanjeev Gurung, 18, Sharwan Magar, 15, and Sarish Gurung, 15. Manish died after shooting up heroin at their usual Jordan rooftop hangout on Valentine's Day. The experience is still frighteningly clear to Sharwan. 'It's like it happened yesterday,' he said. The friends had taken some snacks and drinks to the rooftop to relax and have some fun. While Sharwan and Sarish talked, Sanjeev and Manish were off in a dark corner injecting heroin. Just before dawn, the trio tried to revive a motionless Manish, but no amount of frantic shaking could get him to stir, though at one point his eyes popped open. 'His eyes didn't shut again. We knew that he was not going to wake up. We were all very afraid. We took turns at feeling his pulse and checking to see whether he was breathing,' Sanjeev said. They finally called an ambulance and Manish was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. 'The doctor just shook his head and said it was all too late,' Sanjeev said quietly, his grief evident. Manish's death came after only five months in Hong Kong and shortly after a friend, another ethnic immigrant, had died of a drug overdose, aged 17. Sanjeev's mother, who said she had never imagined her son getting involved in drugs, was devastated about five months ago when she found a syringe in the pocket of his trousers in the drawer. To get money for his $200-a-day habit, he had lied to his parents, often saying he needed money to buy books for study. Frightened by Manish's death and eager for a new life, Sanjeev sought Ms Wong's help to get into one of Hong Kong's 44 government-registered drug treatment and rehabilitation centres. 'I still didn't believe he would really stop it back then,' said Sanjeev's mother, who accompanies him on his visits to government methadone treatment centres. Sanjeev was determined to join Christian Zheng Sheng College, a rehabilitation centre and boarding school at Ha Keng, on Lantau Island, so he can resume his studies and quit his addiction. He had waited four months for admission. Sanjeev finally joined the centre on Monday and intends to complete a two-year rehabilitation programme.