ACAN issues consultation paper on RESCUE Drug Testing Scheme (with photo)

The following is issued on behalf of the Action Committee Against Narcotics:

     The Action Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN) has issued today (September 25) a consultation paper on the RESCUE Drug Testing Scheme (RDT), which proposes for the community to consider RDT as an additional measure to help identify drug abusers as early as possible, and to refer them to social workers or health-care professionals for counselling and treatment programmes.

     Speaking at a press conference, the ACAN Chairman, Professor Daniel Shek, said, "In spite of an improvement in the local drug situation in recent years, ACAN is of the view that there is a case for the community to consider RDT as an additional anti-drug measure, and because of the increasingly hidden nature of drug abuse and the serious and long-term effects that drug abuse can inflict on drug abusers, other people and society as a whole."

     With reference to the legislation against drug driving, ACAN has proposed that trained law enforcement officers should be empowered to require a person to undergo drug testing when there are reasonable grounds, based on strong circumstantial conditions, to suspect that the person has taken drugs. The person who is identified as having taken drugs will then be referred to counselling and treatment programmes.

     Professor Shek stressed that the purpose of RDT was not for prosecution. The aim was to identify drug abusers early through drug testing and to refer them to counselling and treatment programmes in a timely manner.

     He pointed out that the increasingly hidden drug abuse was a cause of concern. According to the figures of the Central Registry of Drug Abuse (CRDA), there had been an alarming lengthening in the drug history of abusers. In 2012, half of the newly reported drug abusers had abused drugs for more than four years. The figure had more than doubled when compared to that of 2008.

     Professor Shek said that prolonged psychotropic substance abuse could cause serious and even irreversible damage to health. Many drug abusers had low motivation to seek help, and mistakenly believed that they can have control over drugs. However, on the contrary, they were subject to the influence of drugs and became addicted. They did not seek help until they were very ill.

     Professor Shek said drug abuse was not simply a matter of personal choice. It would create heavy long-term burden on society, including an increase in expenditure on medical and social welfare services, etc, and lowering the productivity of society as a whole. Therefore, early identification of drug abusers and rendering them assistance was particularly important.

     He pointed out that although consumption of dangerous drugs was an offence under existing law, law enforcement officers did not have the legal authority to require a person suspected of having taken drugs to provide a urine sample to ascertain if the person had taken drugs. Thus, the drug abuser could not be referred to join counselling and treatment programmes.

     He said, "In view of the reasons mentioned above, we are of the view that there is a case for the community to consider RDT to help identify drug abusers early."

     Professor Shek said ACAN understood that introduction of RDT would involve sensitive issues such as human rights and privacy concerns. ACAN thus proposed that there must be sufficient safeguards for human rights under RDT to ensure that there were sufficient checks and balances in the mechanism, and to address public concern about possible abuse by law enforcement officers.

     He said that to address this issue, the consultation paper invited the public to express views on particular issues, including under what circumstances should drug testing be triggered, how individual rights could be safeguarded, the applicable scope of RDT and follow-up services for a confirmed drug abuser.

     Professor Shek stressed that ACAN maintained an open mind on RDT and did not have any preconceived idea. Public consensus would be a prerequisite for pursuing the scheme. He encouraged different sectors of the community to actively express their views.

     He said, "The public consultation will last for four months. Following the end of the public consultation period, we will summarise the views received and recommend the way forward for the Government to further consider."

     Views can be sent to the Action Committee Against Narcotics Secretariat by mail to 30/F, High Block, Queensway Government Offices, 66 Queensway, Hong Kong; by fax to 2810 1773; or by email to on or before January 24, 2014.

     ACAN will also organise public forums during the consultation period to collect public views.

     Details of the public forums are:

(1) 1pm to 2.30pm on October 4 (Friday)
Lecture Theatre, Hong Kong Central Library, 66 Causeway Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

(2) 7.30pm to 9pm on October 8 (Tuesday)
Auditorium, North District Town Hall, 2 Lung Wan Street, Sheung Shui, New Territories

(3) 7.30pm to 9pm on October 9 (Wednesday)
Lecture Hall, Hong Kong Science Museum, 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon

(4) 7.30pm to 9pm on October 17 (Thursday)
Auditorium, Yuen Long Theatre, 9 Yuen Long Tai Yuk Road, New Territories

     Members of the public are welcome to attend the forums. Seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. The consultation paper and details of the public forums have been uploaded to the RDT website (

     ACAN members also reviewed the local drug situation in the first half of 2013 at their quarterly meeting held today. They were pleased to note that the local drug situation had continued to improve. The total number of reported drug abusers and young drug abusers aged under 21 had dropped when compared to the same period in 2012.

     According to the latest CRDA figures, the total number of reported drug abusers in the first half of 2013 decreased by 10 per cent (from 6,895 to 6,192) when compared to the same period last year while there was a 29 per cent decline (from 1,037 to 735) in the number of reported young drug abusers aged under 21.

     The number of newly reported drug abusers dropped by 19 per cent (from 1,526 to 1,231) and the number of newly reported young drug abusers aged under 21 decreased by 34 per cent (from 581 to 385) when compared to the same period last year.

     The median time of abusing drugs by newly reported abusers (i.e. the time for abusers to be discovered by the CRDA reporting agencies from their first drug abuse) had increased from 3.7 years in the first half of 2012 to 4.6 years in the first half of 2013.

     Heroin remained the most popular drug abused and ketamine continued to be the most popular type of psychotropic substance abused among all reported abusers. The total numbers of reported heroin abusers and ketamine abusers dropped by 12 per cent (from 3,825 to 3,380) and 13 per cent (from 1,917 to 1,672) respectively when compared to the figures in the first half of 2012. Among ketamine abusers, 24 per cent were aged under 21.

     All the numbers of reported abusers of other types of psychotropic substances had recorded a decrease: nimetazepam (81 per cent lower), ecstasy (39 per cent lower), cannabis (29 per cent lower), cough medicine (21 per cent lower), triazolam/midazolam/zopiclone (9 per cent lower), cocaine (6 per cent lower) and ice (4 per cent lower).

Ends/Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:10