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Drug situation continues to improve (with photos)

     The Action Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN) at its quarterly meeting today (December 19) reviewed the local drug situation in the first three quarters of 2013. Members noted that the local drug situation had continued to improve. The total number of reported drug abusers and young drug abusers aged under 21 had decreased significantly when compared to the same period in 2012.

     According to the latest figures of the Central Registry of Drug Abuse (CRDA), the total number of reported drug abusers in the first three quarters of 2013 decreased by 11 per cent (from 9,354 to 8,334) when compared to the same period last year. The number of reported young drug abusers aged under 21 was 28 per cent lower (from 1,379 to 988), while the number of newly reported drug abusers dropped by 19 per cent (from 2,349 to 1,914).

     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 3.9 years in the first three quarters of 2012 to 4.6 years in the first three quarters of 2013.

     The number of reported psychotropic substance abusers (4,910) continued to exceed the number of reported narcotic analgesics abusers (4,394).

     Among all reported drug abusers, heroin remained the most popular type of drug abused. However, there was a decline of 13 per cent (from 5,052 to 4,392) in the number of reported heroin abusers compared to the same period last year.

     Ketamine remained the most popular type of psychotropic substance abused. The number of reported ketamine abusers dropped by 16 per cent (from 2,711 to 2,273), of whom 23 per cent were youngsters aged under 21.

     Except for a slight increase (2 per cent) in the number of reported abusers of "ice", the numbers of reported abusers of other types of psychotropic substances recorded decreases: nimetazepam (74 per cent lower), ecstasy (37 per cent lower), cannabis (24 per cent lower), cough medicine (23 per cent lower), triazolam/midazolam/zopiclone (9 per cent lower) and cocaine (2 per cent lower).

     In spite of an improvement in the local drug situation, the ACAN Chairman, Professor Daniel Shek, expressed concern about the increasingly hidden nature of drug abuse and the lengthening in the drug history of abusers as shown in the latest figures.

     Professor Shek said, "Prolonged psychotropic substance abuse can cause irreversible bodily harm. Drug abuse is a problem that affects not only the drug abuser, but also other people. It also imposes a heavy burden on society as a whole. Therefore, early identification of drug abusers and offering them assistance is particularly important.

     "The ACAN has issued a consultation paper on the RESCUE Drug Testing (RDT) Scheme, which proposes for the community to consider the RDT Scheme 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."

     He appealed to members of the public to actively give their opinions on the proposal before the end of the consultation period on January 24, 2014. The ACAN would continue to encourage the public to express their views through various channels.

     Professor Shek stressed that the ACAN maintained an open mind on the RDT Scheme. Public consensus was a prerequisite for pursuing the RDT Scheme. Following the end of the consultation period, the ACAN would summarise the views received and put forward recommendations on the way forward and details for the Government's consideration.

     The Commissioner for Narcotics, Mrs Erika Hui, said the Government would not slacken its anti-drug efforts despite an improvement in the drug situation. The Administration would continue to adopt the five-pronged strategy, namely preventive education and publicity, treatment and rehabilitation, legislation and law enforcement, external co-operation, and research, to meet challenges brought about by drugs in a holistic manner. Also, the Government would closely monitor the latest drug situation and take corresponding actions in a timely manner to tackle the drug abuse problem.

     Mrs Hui said that the Police had earlier noticed shops selling suspected dangerous drugs that were attractively packaged as candies. According to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (Cap 134), trafficking in purported dangerous drugs is a criminal offence. Upon conviction, offenders will be liable to a maximum fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for seven years. She urged the public to stay vigilant and not to breach the law. In addition, front-line law enforcement officers would maintain close surveillance and take enforcement actions against all drug activities and suspected drug trafficking activities. The law enforcement agencies would also continue to gather intelligence and take timely actions.

     With Christmas and New Year around the corner, Mrs Hui said the Government was stepping up its anti-drug publicity efforts to encourage young people to stay alert and resist the temptation of drugs.

     One of the activities was the distribution of anti-drug publicity materials in Tsim Sha Tsui after the ACAN meeting today. Professor Shek and Mrs Hui, together with ACAN and Sub-committee members and the Chairman of the Yau Tsim Mong District Fight Crime Committee, Mr Chan Siu-tong, as well as representatives of the Yau Tsim Police District, distributed anti-drug publicity materials to patrons of bars and eateries and passers-by in the district, appealing to the public, particularly youngsters, to remain vigilant and stay away from drugs during the festive season.

     In addition, the Narcotics Division will strengthen anti-drug publicity by placing advertisements in the Internet, in places frequented by youths such as karaoke establishments, and on the public transportation network. Anti-drug roving exhibitions and various anti-drug publicity activities in co-operation with local and district bodies will also be held.

Ends/Thursday, December 19, 2013
Issued at HKT 20:29


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