Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Asia

Hong Kong


                        Extent of Drug Abuse

Heroin is reported to have remained the predominant drug of abuse with high purity heroin no. 4 replacing no. 3 heroin (Narcotics 1991). Out of the total 37,753 (about 0.8 per cent of the teenage/adult population) registered drug abusers at the end of 1992, 92.7 per cent abused heroin, 4 per cent cannabis and 3.3 per cent cough medicine with 2 per cent abusing other drugs (Narcotics 1992; Hong Kong 1991).

                       Abuser Characteristics

At the end of 1992, 90.2 per cent of the registered drug abusers were males and the average age was 40 years (males 41 and females 31 years). Among the abusers, 51.6 per cent were aged 21-40 years and 7.7 per cent were below 21 years (of whom 75.2 per cent were males) (Narcotics 1992).

            Drug abusers had lower than average education levels. In the first half of 1991, 46 per cent of the addicts were reported to have 1-6 years of schooling, 38 per cent 7-9 years and 11 per cent at least ten years, while 5 per cent had no schooling. Among the abusers who gave information about employment, 64.5 per cent were employed (Narcotics 1992).

                         Regional Variations

No information provided by 31st December 1993.


Some decrease in the abuse of heroin was reported for 1989 and 1990 (U.N. 1989, 1990) while a significant increase was reported in the abuse of cough medicine since 1988, especially among people under 21 years of age (Narcotics 1992).

            Although a steady decline has been reported in the number of new drug abusers for recent years, abusers of psychotropic substances, mainly cannabis and tranquilizers, are reported increasing (Hong Kong 1991).

                             Mode of intake

According to 1992 registry data, 57.4 per cent of heroin abusers inject drugs, a decrease of 1.2 per cent since 1991. Multiple drug abuse is prevalent among about 7 per cent of the abusers registered prior to 1992. For those registered in 1992, multiple drug abuse is significantly higher (14 per cent), especially among those 21 years of age or younger (17.1 per cent) (Narcotics 1992).


Few cases of HIV sero-prevalence were diagnosed (1 in 1985, 2 in 1988 and 2 in 1989) (Hong Kong 1992).


                           National Strategy

Under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, trafficking or manufacturing dangerous drugs like heroin, opium, morphine and cannabis carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of $5 million. Other natural and synthetic psychoactive substances are also strictly controlled (Narcotics 1991).

            In Hong Kong a comprehensive strategy has been implemented encompassing law enforcement, treatment and rehabilitation, preventive education, publicity, and international cooperation. This programme is centrally coordinated by the Action Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN), a non-statutory body formed in 1965 comprising 21 government officials and community leaders with experience in social work, education, legal and community services (Hong Kong 1991).


                           Treaty adherence

Hong Kong is not party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, or the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.


                          Primary Prevention

Education is given prominence in prevention activities. Drug education in schools starts at primary six and is covered in greater detail in secondary schools. Drug education talks are held with students in all secondary schools and technical institutes. For teachers of secondary schools, a Drug Education Teaching Kit has been available since 1978. Additional prevention measures include a number of activities by ACAN held for young people, as well as media campaigns (Hong Kong 1991).

                 Treatment and Rehabilitation

Drug dependence is seen as a medical/social problem in Hong Kong and drug dependent abusers are treated in medical facilities. Abusers are informed of the facilities available and are encouraged to seek help. Major publicly funded programmes include a compulsory placement programme for convicted criminals who are also drug abusers, a voluntary outpatient methadone programme attended on a daily basis by about 8,000 abusers, and a voluntary inpatient treatment and rehabilitation programme. Treatment programmes are also provided by religious and voluntary organizations. About 14,000 persons are under some form of treatment or aftercare per day (Hong Kong 1991).


      Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

In 1991, a reported 7,813 persons were arrested for drug-related offences (in 1990, 7,600). Major offences (trafficking, manufacturing or peddling) resulted in 3,969 arrests (a decrease of 16.9 per cent from 1990) while minor offences (related to simple possession or consumption) resulted in 3,844 arrests (an increase of 36.3 per cent from 1990). The involvement of young persons in major drug offences is reported to have increased by 9.6 per cent from 1990 to 1991 (Narcotics 1991).


In 1991, 28 kg of heroin no. 4, 64 kg of intermediate heroin mixture, 20 kg of heroin no. 3, 26 kg of heroin base, 53 kg of opium, 173 kg of cannabis, 7.5 kg of cocaine, 73 kg of methamphetamine, 0.5 kg and 17,663 tablets of methaqualone, 30,191 tablets of Valium and 5,343 tablets of Librium were reported seized. Additionally, 9 factories which were used to cut or dilute heroin were reported destroyed and two local distribution syndicates and 18 international drug trafficking syndicates were reported neutralized (Narcotics 1991).

                      Supply Source of Drugs

Most of the opiates abused in Hong Kong are reported to come from the Golden Triangle area through China. Cannabis herbs are mainly smuggled in from Thailand and the Philippines and cannabis resin from Nepal and Pakistan. Drugs are smuggled to Hong Kong by sea (mainly cannabis herbs), by air (mainly heroin, but also cannabis herbs) and by land (heroin, methamphetamine and opium) (Narcotics 1991).

            Because of its geographical position and its importance as a major communication hub, Hong Kong continues to be a transit centre for illicit drugs. Significant increase of methamphetamine trafficking was reported through Hong Kong from China to Japan and the Philippines (Narcotics 1991).

                       References and Notes

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years .... (not available by January 15th 1994).

U.N. 1989,1990. Replies to the UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years 1989 and 1990.

Narcotics 1992. Central Registry of Drug Abuse, Narcotics Division, Government Secretariat, Twenty-Eighth Report (Jan 1982 - Jun 1991) & Thirty-First Report (1983-1992).

Hong Kong 1992. Country Report Hong Kong. Sub-Regional Seminar on the Social and Economic Implica­tions of HIV/AIDS, 22-26 September 1992, Kunming, China.

Hong Kong 1991. Prevention and Rehabilitation - Hong Kong Situation Report for the Meeting of Senior Officials on Drug Abuse Issues in Asia and the Pacific, 1991.

Narcotics 1991. The Hong Kong Action Committee Against Narcotics, Hong Kong Narcotics Report, 1991.