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Total number of reported drug abusers in decline but certain issues still require attention
     The Action Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN) reviewed the local drug situation in 2016 at its quarterly meeting today (March 23). The overall number of reported drug abusers had continued to decline, but the problems of drug abuse among young adults, the increased prevalence of methamphetamine ("ice") and hidden drug abuse still require attention.

     According to the latest figures of the Central Registry of Drug Abuse (CRDA), the total number of reported drug abusers in 2016 decreased by 8 per cent (from 8,767 to 8,077) compared with 2015. The number of reported drug abusers aged under 21 registered a more notable decrease of 27 per cent (from 689 to 502).

     The number of newly reported drug abusers in 2016 decreased by 12 per cent (from 2,179 to 1,927). Over half (55 per cent) were young adults aged between 21 and 35, suggesting that drug abuse in this age group is still a cause for concern.

     The latest CRDA figures also revealed that the median drug abusing history of newly reported abusers (i.e. the time for abusers to be discovered by the CRDA reporting agencies from their first drug abuse) was 4.6 years, compared with 5.9 years in 2015.

     In 2016, the total number of reported psychotropic substance abusers (PSAs) and narcotic analgesic abusers decreased by 6 per cent (from 5,497 to 5,145) and 9 per cent (from 4,422 to 4,038) respectively. Among the newly reported cases, the number of PSAs (1,682) was substantially higher than that of narcotic analgesic abusers (256), reflecting the continued prevalence of psychotropic substance abuse.

     "Ice" continued to be the most common type of psychotropic substance abused, with the number of reported abusers having increased by 7 per cent (from 2,257 to 2,414), as compared to 2015. Meanwhile, other major types of psychotropic substance registering a decreased number of reported abusers included ketamine (from 2,023 to 1,236), triazolam/midazolam/zopiclone (from 986 to 967), MDMA ("ecstasy") (from 55 to 54) and nimetazepam (from 32 to 29), while increases were recorded for cocaine (from 625 to 774), cannabis (from 349 to 427) and cough medicine (from 354 to 407).

     The ACAN Chairman, Dr Ben Cheung, said, "Although the overall number of reported drug abusers in 2016 continued to decline, the increasing number of 'ice' abusers warrants attention. 'Ice' is addictive and can cause serious drug-induced psychiatric symptoms and illnesses such as psychosis, anxiety, depression, hallucinations and feelings of persecution, which may result in violent or self-destructive behaviour. We will continue to enhance public awareness of these drug harms.

     "Despite the shortened drug history of newly reported drug abusers, hidden drug abuse remains a cause for concern. We also need to pay heed to the continued relatively high proportion of newly reported young adult drug abusers, as their drug abuse will not only affect their health but also their social, family and work lives. We will not relax our efforts to deal with the hidden drug abuse problem and encourage early help-seeking."

     The Commissioner for Narcotics, Ms Manda Chan, said, "The continued decline in the number of reported drug abusers reflects the result of the concerted anti-drug efforts of the Government and various sectors in the community. We will continue to adopt the five-pronged strategy in the fight against drugs and, in response to the latest trends, strengthen the dissemination of anti-drug messages and promotion of the anti-drug helpline 186 186 and instant messaging service 98 186 186."
Ends/Thursday, March 23, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:25
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