Alcohol, Violence and Addiction in Hong Kong

As alcohol consumption in Hong Kong is on the rise, alcohol-related violence and addiction begins to soar.

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Ever since the much hailed 2008 tax abolition on alcohol except for spirits, Hong Kong has become the world’s number one wine trading centre and the economy has benefitted in a number of ways. However, rates of alcohol consumption are inversely proportional to its price, meaning the lower the price of beer and wine, the higher the rates of consumption — and with higher consumption, there are more instances of violence and addiction.

From 2005-2010, the prevalence of drinking increased among adults in Hong Kong, and this increase was most dramatic for women. Further, surveys show that 17% of residents drink more than the recommended daily limit. Certain drinking trends have an even greater impact on the relative harm that drinking causes for individuals and society — namely binge drinking and underage drinking, both of which are a concern in Hong Kong.

Binge drinking is a pattern of alcohol abuse in which people drink 4 or more drinks in a sitting, with the intention of getting drunk. The prevalence of binge drinking in Hong Kong is on the rise and has become especially problematic for young people, with the highest rates of binge drinking occurring among males aged 25-34 and females aged 18-24. Binge drinking is the pattern of alcohol misuse most likely to lead to dependence — a risk many are unaware of. In fact, the perception of risk associated with drinking is low among Hong Kong university students, which means that they may not take necessary precautions to prevent dependence and other harms.

One of the major concerns in Hong Kong is the increase in underage drinking. The latest official study was done in 2008, where it was reported that a whopping 65% of secondary school students said they had tried alcohol at least once, and 24% had drank in the past month. Unfortunately, there is a lack of long-term studies and credible statistics on underage drinking in Hong Kong, but a social worker at The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong claims that “in the past five to 10 years more teenagers are drinking”.

And of course, the problem there is that the younger people are when they begin to drink, the greater their chance is of developing alcoholism in the future — and as more and more young people experiment with drinking, Hong Kong will likely see a rise in future cases of addiction and a greater need for rehabilitation services.

One culprit in the evolution of drinking amongst young people is what some call “Club 7-Eleven.” While alcohol is available at many venues in Hong Kong, from supermarkets and convenience stores to bars and clubs, the law does not apply equally to all. Convenience stores such as 7-Eleven are not required to hold liquor licenses, nor are they restricted by law to only serve to adults over age 18.

In Hong Kong’s popular nightclub area, Lan Kwai Fong, 7-Elevens selling alcohol in the vicinity are proving not only to be a hindrance to local businesses, but are also a concern for public safety. Bar owners are understandably upset that their patrons are purchasing beverages at 7-Elevens — where the price of a beer can be 8 times lower than in the club. Equally concerning however, is the security and crowd control of thousands of people drinking in the street, as well as the unregulated sale of beer to minors. One local establishment owner told the South China Morning Post that he has had to help children who had passed out on the street on several occasions. Not only is this dangerous, but the local man believes that these groups of children roaming the streets drinking alcohol hurts the city’s international image.

Alcohol related violence in Hong Kong on the Rise

Given the increase in binge drinking and the research (and common sense) suggesting that with increased consumption comes increased alcohol related problems, it is no surprise that police recently reported that Lan Kwai Fong has seen an increase in booze fuelled nightclub fights. Brutal assaults have occurred over minor disputes, as drinking reduces peoples’ judgment and self-control. In other countries where drinking is more prevalent, alcohol is a factor in 40-50% of all violent crimes — a trend Hong Kong surely does not want to emulate.

But bar fights are not the only concerning violence occurring in Hong Kong. Alcohol use also leads to increased incidents and severity of domestic violence and sexual assault. Women under the influence of alcohol are more likely to experience sexual assault, and men under the influence are more likely to commit sexual assault and admit to preying on drunk women whose vulnerability is high.

According to Hong Kong’s social workers, incidents of domestic violence have also on the rise. In Australia, where there is more research available than Hong Kong, alcohol is a factor in one half to two thirds of domestic violence cases. When drinking is involved, violence is more likely to escalate from verbal abuse to physical assault.

Per capita drinking rates in Australia are currently among the highest in the world and drinking by adults negatively impacts 1 million children there. However, across the Asia-Pacific region including in Australia and now in Hong Kong, drinking is revered as a harmless pastime, with rarely any public mention of the damage it causes to society.

Drinking to excess can cause many noteworthy concerns to the public such as violence and family disruption, but it can also be harmful to the health and wellbeing of individuals.

Alcoholism and Drug Abuse in Hong Kong

One risk of increased alcohol consumption is developing dependence. Addiction is a disease in which people are unable to control their drinking despite the negative effects it may have on their physical and emotional health, relationships, and career. People generally require professional rehabilitation to overcome addiction, and Hong Kong does not have a long history of providing this type of treatment. The World Health Organisation also attributes drinking alcoholic beverages excessively to the development of over 200 diseases and injury conditions in addition to dependence.

Unfortunately, inhibitions to judgment caused by alcohol use can also lead young people to experiment more with other drugs as well. This can lead to cross-addiction where someone becomes addicted to more than one substance, and therefore treatment becomes more complicated.

At The Cabin’s drug and alcohol rehab Hong Kong, residents can receive Asia’s leading addiction treatment services in a convenient outpatient rehab setting. The Cabin’s expert treatment team has a deep understanding of the addictive process and can help you or your loved ones start the road to addiction recovery and leave harmful patterns of alcohol use behind.

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