ACAN supports extension of Tai Po Trial Scheme on School Drug Testing

     Members of the Action Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN) gave their full support for an extension of the Trial Scheme on School Drug Testing in Tai Po District to school year 2010/11 at their quarterly meeting today (October 5).

     They were briefed on the preliminary findings and observations of the evaluation research on the scheme, together with latest drug related figures in Hong Kong in the first half of 2010.

     Members were pleased to note the positive feedback by the stakeholders of the Tai Po Trial Scheme including students, parents, teachers, principals and social workers as revealed by the research study.  They believed that the Trial Scheme had borne fruit and agreed that it should be extended for another year to sustain the momentum of the Scheme.

     Members noted that the initial findings of the research have shown that the Trial Scheme has had a positive impact on enhancing students' resolve to refuse illicit drugs, building an anti-drug culture in schools and motivating those in need to seek help.

     They also noted that earlier concerns about the Trial Scheme such as labelling effect and adverse impact on student-parent relationship and student-teacher relationship were unfounded.

     Members were told that the total number of reported drug abusers in Hong Kong aged under 21 in the first half of 2010 had decreased by some 20% as compared to the same period of last year. They also noted that the drop in Tai Po was higher than the territory figure at slightly above 30%.

     ACAN Chairman Professor Daniel Shek said, "We are pleased to note that the Trial Scheme has generally achieved the dual objectives of enhancing the resolve of students to stay away from drugs and rendering support for students troubled by drugs.

     "We are also glad to see a drop in the total number of reported drug abusers in the first half of 2010, in particular the larger drop in the number of reported young drug abusers in Tai Po. We believe this is a result of our escalated anti-drug efforts in preventive education and publicity, treatment and rehabilitation, legislation and enforcement, evidence-based research, and external cooperation viz our five-pronged approach in which school drug testing has played a pioneering part. The support and cooperation of different sectors of the community is also important.

     "The Trial Scheme is an innovative addition to our overall anti-drug efforts.  Given its positive impact, and upon the suggestion of the Tai Po principal group, we agreed that the Trial Scheme should be extended for another year."

     He added, "The experience to be gained from the extension will be valuable for further developing school drug testing in Hong Kong."

     Commissioner for Narcotics Ms Sally Wong said she was happy that ACAN has backed the extension of the Trial Scheme.

     She said, "The Tai Po schools have indicated their wish to extend the Trial Scheme to the current school year 2010/11 to reinforce grounds gained last school year and to further cultivate the anti-drug culture."

     She noted that the arrangements for the last school year would be carried forward, including the parts played by the school drug testing team, counselling centre for psychotropic substance abusers, school social workers, project officers and school management. The protocol adopted last year, with particular regard to protecting the privacy of students concerned, will be followed with minor refinements based on the experience gained.

     "There are clear merits in further developing school drug testing in Hong Kong as a helpful element of the Healthy School Policy.  Arrangements for extending school drug testing to schools outside Tai Po require careful consideration.  Implementation issues such as allowing greater flexibility in the voluntary grouping of schools, better scope for participating schools to implement the scheme to suit their particular circumstances, more freedom in the schools' selection of partner NGOs, relevant funding requirements and detailed arrangements, etc need to be addressed.  The research organisation is finalising its report, which is expected to be released in about a month's time," she added.

     During the meeting, members also reviewed other drug related figures in Hong Kong in the first half of 2010.

     Members noted that heroin remained the most abused drug among the reported abusers, but the total number of reported heroin abusers was about 14% lower than that in the same period of 2009 (from 4,714 to 4,050).

     The total number of reported psychotropic substance abusers (PSAs) also went down by about 12% (from 5,081 to 4,450).

     Among the psychotropic substances abused, ketamine remained the most common. The number of reported ketamine abusers was about 16% lower than the same period last year (from 3,196 to 2,682). Over half of them were aged under 21.

     The reported number of most other groups of PSAs also declined: ecstasy (51% lower), cannabis (25% lower), cough medicine (23% lower), triazolam/midazolam/zopiclone (11% lower) and nimetazepam (5% lower). However, the number of reported abusers of cocaine and ice were 36% and 18% higher respectively.

     Among the young drug abusers, home of self or friends (73%) remained the most popular locality for taking drugs, followed by recreation area/ public garden/ public toilet (37%) and disco/karaoke (22%).  In that light, the Administration has launched a new series of publicity to strengthen young people's resolve to stay away from drugs.  The Beat Drugs Fund has also given priority funding support for proposals to enhance parental education in particular.  More initiatives will be launched to raise parents' general knowledge about youth drug abuse, so as to strengthen their awareness of and support for the cause of anti-youth drug abuse.

Ends/Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Issued at HKT 18:38