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LCQ17: Tackling youth drug abuse

    Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, (in the absence of Secretary for Security) to a question by the Hon Lau Kong-wah in the Legislative Council today (April 16):


    Regarding the problem of drug addiction and abuse of psychotropic substances among adolescents, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of cases in the past two years in which adolescents were diagnosed with serious illness or found dead as a result of being addicted to drugs or abusing psychotropic substances, with details such as the drug addiction/substance abuse history of such adolescents, and their average age, etc.;

(b) how the above figures compare with those in developed countries, and whether it has assessed if the problem is serious in Hong Kong;

(c) whether the Task Force on Youth Drug Abuse has examined the measures taken by developed countries to tackle the social problem of adolescents suffering from illness or losing their lives as a result of drug addiction or abuse of psychotropic substances, and whether any of those measures have been identified as suitable for implementation in Hong Kong; and

(d) whether it has reviewed the effectiveness of the publicity work on the harmful effects of drug addiction and abuse of psychotropic substances undertaken in the past by the authorities concerned, and whether it will step up its efforts to put the message across to adolescents that addiction to drugs or abuse of psychotropic substances can result in serious illness?


Madam President,

(a) The number of deaths resulting from drug abuse in Hong Kong was 194 and 155 in 2005 and 2006 respectively.  Among them, there were respectively three and two cases involving youngsters aged below 21, with an average age of 17.  We do not collate figures on drug abuse period of these youngsters and the number of youngsters diagnosed with serious illness as a result of drug abuse.

(b) Since different places in the world adopt different definitions of drug-related death and reporting methods, there are practical difficulties to make direct comparison of statistics.  But as an illustration, according to the definition of drug-related death adopted by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and latest statistics available, the rate of drug-related death involving youngsters (aged below 25) of Hong Kong (3.8 persons per million population in 2006) is lower than that of the United Kingdom (14.2 persons per million population in 2004) and that of Germany (7.3 persons per million population in 2005).

(c) The Administration has all along adopted a "five-pronged" strategy, namely legislation and law enforcement, treatment and rehabilitation, preventive education and publicity, research and external co-operation, to combat the menace of drug abuse, including the problem of youngsters suffering from illness or losing their lives as a result of drug abuse.

    Over the past few months, the Task Force on Youth Drug Abuse (Task Force) led by the Secretary for Justice has conducted in-depth examination of the drug abuse problem including looking into relevant measures and experience of other countries, and devised a series of initial measures that can be implemented in the short to medium term. 

    Taking into account overseas experience, the Administration will launch a pilot scheme to enhance collaboration between medical professionals and social workers on the provision of body checks and motivational interviews to young drug abusers, and will provide training to private medical practitioners to widen the network for early intervention and referral to treatment at the community level.  The Hospital Authority will also strengthen the medical treatment service of its substance abuse clinics.  The Task Force will continue its deliberations in the coming months on other and long-term measures to tackle the problem.

(d) The Administration evaluates the effectiveness of anti-drug publicity programmes from time to time.  Our efforts include consultation with the Action Committee Against Narcotics and its Sub-committee on Preventive Education and Publicity; conducting public opinion survey; conducting regular surveys of drug use among students (including their views on anti-drug publicity and preventive education work); and arranging focus group meetings with frontline social workers, school heads, teachers, parent associations, students and rehabilitated young drug abusers.  The evaluation is conducted through multiple means and perspectives to further enhance the publicity strategy.

    On the preventive education front, the Task Force observes that many young people harbour misconceptions about psychotropic substances and wrongly believe that ketamine, "ecstasy", etc. are not as harmful as heroin.  To mobilise the whole community to fight against youth drug abuse and to correct misconceptions and wrong attitudes among the youth towards psychotropic substances, the Task Force will launch a territory-wide campaign against youth drug abuse in late June.  At the central level, we will increase publicity efforts, including launching a new series of television and radio Announcements in the Public Interest, posters, leaflets, anti-drug theme songs, and booklets.  We will also collaborate with District Councils, District Fight Crime Committees and local organisations to promote district-based anti-drug activities.  Various sectors of the community including professional organisations, women associations, private corporations and business associations will be engaged to help foster a drug free culture.

    Aside from efforts through the media and different sectors of the community, the Administration will strengthen drug education in schools in four areas, namely school policy, teacher professional development, parent education, and preventive education for students.  We are committed to enriching teachers' knowledge and skills, encouraging parents to start preventive education at home, and building up students' ability to stay away from drugs.

Ends/Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Issued at HKT 16:35


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