Frustrated police say fines offer no real deterrent Discos are hotbeds of 'alarming' levels of drug taking, with nine out of 10 teenagers getting high at clubs, a survey has found. Teenagers are also having sex in clubs, often without protection, and getting into fights. But police complain that raids and arrests do little because even a successful prosecution often results in just a fine. Members of the Chinese University social work department, which conducted the survey of 300 young partygoers aged 14 to 28, said 90 per cent of the respondents admitted to having taken drugs in the past three months - a sharp increase on the roughly 55 per cent who said yes in a similar poll in 2000. 'The increase is alarming. We didn't expect the rate to be so high,' said Steven Ngai Sek-yum, an associate professor of social work who headed the study with two others. 'The cultures of going to discos and drug abuse have become one.' The seven-month study, which ended in March last year, was divided into two parts, a survey and six focus groups, which included police, teenagers and social workers. Three Catholic charity Caritas social workers conducted the survey by going to Mong Kok discos to interview the youngsters with a questionnaire, or by talking to them in parks and malls. Teenagers were asked to rate between 0 and 100 the likelihood they would take part in specific behaviour. When asked whether they would use drugs, the average response was 50; having sex inside the disco, 41; having unsafe sex, 16; getting into fights 25; and taking part in street racing afterwards, 15. When asked about actual behaviour, 21.9 per cent said they had seen fights inside discos, 7.2 per cent had had sex inside the venue, and 5.2 per cent had been in fights. The researchers said they found youngsters had gone to discos as many as 17 times, commonly spending HK$600 on drugs - with some spending HK$1,000 a night - in a three-month period. They take a variety of drugs. Ecstasy tablets, or 'head-shaking pills', was the most popular among those who took drugs, with just over 70 per cent saying they used them, followed by ketamine at 67 per cent and marijuana at 42 per cent. Fifteen officers from narcotics teams and the Tsim Sha Tsui division, who volunteered for the focus groups, said they felt helpless. 'Before police arrive at the discos, the staff immediately spot them and notify the youngsters, who drop the pills to the floor before officers rush in,' Professor Ngai said. Officers felt 'frustrated' that even those who were prosecuted were mostly only fined in court, providing no deterrent or motivation for them to quit. The survey also discovered that social workers' help had not made matters any better. 'Most of the interviewees said that they know one or more social worker they can trust, but they still go to discos to abuse drugs,' Professor Ngai said. He suggested more healthy activities to prevent teenagers from going to discos and joining triads. Chu Fung, head of Caritas drug intervention programme, Playsafe, urged courts to send users to rehabilitation services, and the government to fund early intervention programmes to help users to quit.