In Hong Kong, drug treatment specialists and counselors are concerned that children and young adults are not getting the drug education they need. The problem, according to several specialists in the treatment field, comes from an increased level of availability and a decreased level of law enforcement intervention. Young people who would otherwise be unable to access drugs can do so through the darknet. Both organizations and Hong Kong’s government noted changes and unexplained shifts in the drugs used by the population within the last six to nine months. Experts believe the only way to end the drug problem before is through early intervention and increased accessibility to drug education.
Sky Siu, director of the KELY Support Group, said that the problem in Hong Kong had not grown as bad as in the United States. However, Hong Kong cannot afford an epidemic such as the one in the United States, she explained. KELY Support Group is a local charity that works to educate and help people between the ages of 14 and 24. One of the core services of the charity is to “raise awareness through mass media, public outreach, and social media about issues that young people in Hong Kong face.” And although opioid use is on the decline in Hong Kong, children are still being affected.
A poster from Hong Kong’s Narcotic Division
“Narcotics division statistics tell us that the top three reasons for young people doing drugs in 2017 was relief of mental states, like boredom, depression or stress, peer pressure and curiosity,” Siu said. “These are all areas we need to help young people build resilience in. Understanding why they’re choosing to access drugs is important.” Government figures from June revealed that methamphetamine usage had increased throughout all age groups, but particularly so for women under the age of 21. New drug users and in users in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong’s poorest district, also used more methamphetamine than in previous years.
Katherine Hampton, the programme coordinator at KELY, said that during the last 10 years, “ketamine was the number one drug seen in overdoses. But in the last six to nine months, that trend has shifted towards crystal meth. All of us in the drug community in Hong Kong are concerned about this sudden shift.” Dr Seamus MacAuley, a counsellor at a rehab and drug treatment facility in Hong Kong, pointed to figures provided by Customs as one reason people had turned away from opiates or opioids. Customs saw as high as a 150 percent increase in the seizures of some “party drugs,” MacAuley said. Ecstasy, Mephedrone, and GBL, among others. His thoughts as to why opioids have been declining in use did not shine any light on the methamphetamine increase.
He explained that darknet drug markets impacted the availability of various drugs. “It’s not a case of scoring on a street corner any more,” MacAuley said. “You can buy online, get it from your taxi driver, or have it delivered with your pizza. Police can’t keep up with the dealing or the spectrum of chemicals that’s out there.”
“We have to learn from the US – we don’t want to wait until we have an epidemic,” Siu said. “We need to start now, be proactive and really hone in on the fact that drug and alcohol issues aren’t things that happen to another family. It’s something that could very well happen to yours and can drastically change your entire life.”