Published: 17:50, February 21, 2024 | Updated: 20:43, February 21, 2024
Hong Kong sees 3% rise in number of drug abusers in 2023
By Wang Zhan

This photo shows suspected liquid cocaine seized by Hong Kong's Customs and Excise Department officials and displayed during a press conference at the Customs headquarters in North Point on Jan 15, 2024. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)

HONG KONG – The number of reported drug abusers in Hong Kong increased in 2023 to 5,500 from 5,363 in the previous year, or by 3 percent, the Action Committee Against Narcotics said on Wednesday.

The number of reported young drug abusers aged under 21 however declined by 11 percent, from 744 to 659, during the same period, according to the Central Registry of Drug Abuse and other drug-related figures released by the ACAN.

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The most common type of drugs abused in 2023 was heroin, followed by cocaine and methamphetamine, which is commonly known as "Ice", while cocaine, cannabis, and ketamine remained as the three most common types of drugs abused among young drug abusers aged under 21.

As Hong Kong resumed normalcy in full in 2023 after the COVID-19 pandemic, changes are also observed in the drug situation.

Dr Donald Li, Chairman, Action Committee Against Narcotics

The non-statutory advisory body advises the special administrative region government on measures and policies to eradicate drug abuse from the community and interdict the illicit traffic in dangerous drugs into and through Hong Kong.

“As Hong Kong resumed normalcy in full in 2023 after the COVID-19 pandemic, changes are also observed in the drug situation,” ACAN Chairman Dr Donald Li said while talking on the increase in drug abusers’ numbers at a meeting on Wednesday.

The number of persons arrested for drug offenses in 2023 decreased by 15 percent from 4,005 to 3,406 in 2022. For the same period, the number of young arrestees aged under 21 fell by 33 percent from 483 to 323, and cannabis and cocaine were the main drugs involved, data from law enforcement agencies showed.

According to the court cases concluded in 2023, as high as 87 percent of the persons prosecuted for drug offenses were convicted.

“Although the total number of reported drug abusers in 2023 was still lower than the ones in 2019 or 2018, the ACAN has already reminded relevant government departments to pay close attention to the changes in the drug situation, and has also suggested that they should continue various anti-drug promotion," said Dr Li.

READ MORE: Drug seizures soar at airport in first half of 2023

The ACAN expressed concern about the abuse of cocaine, which was the most common type of psychotropic substance abused last year.

Noting that the city’s law enforcement agencies have detected many cocaine trafficking cases and have enhanced collaboration with the Chinese mainland and other places overseas, the ACAN chairman said the Narcotics Division has stepped up promotion of the harmful effects of cocaine abuse locally “as this drug is highly addictive and could be fatal".

During Wednesday’s meeting, the ACAN also discussed online drug traps, which include different groups inviting others to join drug-taking activities through instant messaging and dating applications. 

“In some cases, drugs would also be associated with sex,” the government said in a statement.

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The Narcotics Department reminded people to avoid drug traps by staying vigilant against drug traffickers while using social media and dating applications as drug dealers are also using those applications.