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Total number of reported drug abusers declines but drug problem still requires attention
     The Action Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN) reviewed the local drug situation in the first quarter of 2017 at its quarterly meeting today (June 16). The total number of reported drug abusers had declined compared to the figures for the same period in 2016. However, the prevalence of methamphetamine ("Ice") abuse, hidden drug abuse and drug abuse among young adults still require attention.
     According to the latest figures of the Central Registry of Drug Abuse (CRDA), the total number of reported drug abusers in the first quarter of 2017 decreased by 18 per cent (from 2,692 to 2,212) as compared to that in the same period last year, while the number of reported drug abusers aged under 21 decreased by 24 per cent (from 178 to 136).

     The number of newly reported drug abusers decreased by 25 per cent (from 479 to 361). Over half (51 per cent) were young adults aged between 21 and 35, reflecting that drug abuse in this age group still warrants attention.
     The latest CRDA figures also revealed that the median history of drug abuse of newly reported abusers (i.e. the time for abusers to be discovered by the CRDA reporting agencies from their first drug abuse) was 3.2 years, compared with 4.6 years in 2016.
     In the first quarter of 2017, the total number of reported psychotropic substance abusers and narcotics analgesic abusers decreased by 24 per cent (from 1,571 to 1,198) and 10 per cent (from 1,448 to 1,296) respectively. Among the newly reported cases, the number of psychotropic substance abusers (at 320) was substantially higher than that of narcotics analgesic abusers (at 44), showing the continued prevalence of psychotropic substance abuse.

     Heroin remained the most common type of drug abused among all reported drug abusers. However, the total number of reported heroin abusers decreased by 10 per cent (from 1,447 to 1,296).

     "Ice" continued to be the most common type of psychotropic substance abused but the number of reported abusers decreased by 20 per cent (from 664 to 529) as compared to the same period in 2016. Other major types of psychotropic substance registering a decreased number of reported abusers were triazolam/midazolam/zopiclone (from 306 to 270), ketamine (from 441 to 222), cannabis (from 106 to 98), cough medicine (from 122 to 64), and MDMA ("ecstasy") (from 7 to 6), while an increase was recorded for cocaine (from 188 to 212).
     The ACAN Chairman, Dr Ben Cheung, said, "Despite a decline in the total number of reported drug abusers, the prevalence of psychotropic substance abuse, particularly 'Ice' abuse, still needs attention. 'Ice' is addictive and can cause irritability, hallucinations, delirium and even permanent brain damage. To enhance public awareness of the drug problem, especially the drug harms of 'Ice' abuse, the ACAN and the Narcotics Division (ND) of the Security Bureau will launch a new round of anti-drug publicity campaign in the summer holidays, which will include a new set of television and radio Announcements in the Public Interest and related advertisements on public transportation networks, in entertainment venues, on popular websites, mobile applications and social media platforms."
     The Commissioner for Narcotics, Ms Manda Chan, said, "The median drug history of 3.2 years suggests the continued need to tackle hidden drug abuse. We will sustain the promotion of the 24-hour hotline 186 186 and instant messaging service 98 186 186 to encourage early help-seeking. For drug abuse among young adults, we will continue to collaborate with different organisations to implement suitable preventive education and publicity programmes at workplaces or venues frequented by young adults to promote healthy lifestyles and positive attitudes against drug temptation."

     With summer approaching, youngsters are encouraged to make good use of the holidays to participate in healthy and meaningful activities. They are also reminded to remain vigilant and not to be lured into drug trafficking which is a serious offence with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of $5 million.
     The CRDA figures for the first quarter of 2017 are available on the ND's website (www.nd.gov.hk).
Ends/Friday, June 16, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:45
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