The Action Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN), a non-statutory body that is tasked with advising the Hong Kong government on drug control efforts, has warned that drug abuse among the youth is a growing problem in the city.
Although the total figure of reported drug abusers was down in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same period last year, there has been significant rise in the number of people under 21 who were taking drugs, it said.
Following a quarterly review on the situation pertaining to trade and consumption of illegal substances, ACAN noted on Thursday that cannabis use was particularly becoming an issue with the youth.
The total number of reported drug abusers in the first quarter of this year was 2,033, marking a 17 percent decline from the 2,447 figure recorded in the same period in 2018, according to the Central Registry of Drug Abuse (CRDA).
But the number of reported drug abusers aged under 21 increased by 15 percent, from 129 to 148. Over 60 percent of drug abusers took drugs at their own homes or in their friends’ homes.
Among different types of drugs, cannabis saw the most increase in the number of users overall, taking into account all age groups, with a jump of 57 percent.
For reported young drug abusers aged under 21, cannabis, also known as marijuana, was the most common type of drug abused, followed by cocaine and “ice”.
Compared to the same period last year, the number of reported cannabis abusers was up 76 percent among people under 21, while those of cocaine and “ice” declined.
ACAN Chairman Ben Cheung said the noticeable rise of cannabis abuse calls for attention, particularly pertaining to people below 21 years in age.
Cannabis is addictive. It can cause serious harm to mental health, and increase the risks of respiratory problems and cardiovascular diseases, Cheung noted.
ACAN and the Narcotics Division are strengthening relevant publicity and educational measures to help the public, especially young people, gain a correct understanding of the harms of cannabis abuse.
As some overseas countries and regions have legalized marijuana for recreational use, Hongkongers traveling to such places should bear in mind Hong Kong’s law, Narcotics Commissioner Manda Chan said.
Bringing cannabis or any products, including food or drinks, that contain controlled cannabis compounds into Hong Kong remains a criminal offense, Chan pointed out.