A survey finds that 15pc of youths use illicit substances Social workers are calling for greater co-operation and support from the government, schools and community leaders to stem increasing drug abuse among South and Southeast Asian youths, some of whom are as young as eight when they start using illicit substances. A survey by the Yang Memorial Methodist Social Service tracking drug abuse by ethnic minorities in the Yau Tsim Mong district will be submitted to the government after it is completed in August. 'We must realise that ethnic minorities may find it harder to get into schools, face a tougher future after graduating, and there are also cultural differences,' said Chan Chi-yiu, a division head with the social service agency. 'That is why a more comprehensive social policy in supporting their education, employment and integration into Hong Kong society is needed to tackle the drug abuse problem.' Initial findings indicate that, of the 344 students and youths surveyed between February and April, 53 (15.4 per cent) said they used drugs. Nepalese youths, who made up 43 per cent of the respondents, accounted for almost three-quarters of the drug users. The surveyed youths were from Nepal, Pakistan, India and the Philippines. Mr Chan noted that between 1994 and 2003, the number of Hong Kong drug users fell, while the number of users among ethnic minorities rose. Preferred drugs include heroin, cannabis and cough medicine. More than one-third of the 53 drug users took a combination of all three substances. Compared with data from 2001, abuse of cough medicine and solvents rose, while the use of ecstasy, cannabis, ketamine and methamphetamine, or Ice, declined. Mr Chan said the economic downturn in the past few years may have forced many youths to seek cheaper ways to get high. The survey also found that smoking was the most popular way of taking drugs, followed by injection and oral consumption. Many of the respondents cited boredom and curiosity as their main reason for taking drugs, while dealers and friends were their most common sources. One 29-year-old Nepalese known as Deepak said he was introduced to heroin seven or eight years ago in Hong Kong by a friend and co-worker, but said he did not even know what the drug was at the time. 'I was working with my friend and I found out later that he was using drugs. He asked me to try some,' said Deepak, who began smoking hashish and cannabis as a 16-year-old in Nepal. Yang Memorial division head Joyce Lee Yuen-sum said that programmes targeting mental health, education, employment and development opportunities were necessary to combat drug use, especially since Yau Tsim Mong had seen a steady rise in usage among ethnic minorities.