“Ice,” which is a slang term for methamphetamine, has become more popular in Asia, and is responsible for about a quarter of New Territory hospital stays. Experts state that ice addiction in Hong Kong has many unpleasant side effects, such as delusions or hallucinations. However, this only scratches the surface of the havoc this drug creates both in those that use it and society at large.
Methamphetamine Composition And Origin
Ice is a type of stimulant which comes in the form of a white powder with a bitter taste. Visually, it sometimes resembles fragments of broken glass or rocks which are a mixture of blue and white. Chemically, it is related to amphetamine, which is used to treat conditions such as attention deficit disorder or narcolepsy. Common ways of consuming it are through inhalation, snorting, injecting the powder (after it has dissolved in either alcohol or water) and swallowing.
Much of the methamphetamine which is sold in Hong Kong comes from the Americas. It is produced in facilities called super labs which are often located throughout Mexico. However, the drug is also made in micro labs which are secretive and also utilise cheap ingredients that can be purchased over the counter, such as pseudoephedrine, which is a standard ingredient found inside cough medicine.
However, to combat production, authorities have passed laws which make it mandatory for both retail outlets and pharmacies to maintain a list of any products they sell which has pseudoephedrine, that way restrictions can be placed on how much an individual can buy daily.
Methamphetamine has been around for decades but has increased in strength over the years due to changes in how it is manufactured. Meth is derived from amphetamine, which was invented in Germany around 1887. The key difference between the two is that meth is simpler to produce yet more potent. It was created in Japan about thirty years later. It was used heavily during the Second World War, where both the Axis and Allied powers needed to keep their troops awake and alert for longer periods of time.
It is said that elevated doses of meth were administered to Japanese Kamikaze pilots before they were dispatched on their missions. Once the war was over, Japan experienced its own epidemic of abuse resulting from military supply stashes which suddenly became available for Japanese citizens.
In some places during the 1960s, it was used as a dietary aid and method of combating depression, and people from all segments of society used it for different purposes. The injectable variant became available by the 1970s, which was around the time that the US government made it illegal.
How The High From Methamphetamine Influences The Mind
Since the high that one achieves from this drug begins and ends rapidly, abusers will often consume multiple doses in order to binge and then crash. A variation of this method is referred to as the “run,” where an addict will forsake sleep and even food while using the drug every three hours, a cycle that can last for days.
Methamphetamine boosts the dopamine levels within the brain. The chemical dopamine is responsible for pleasure, motivation and reward, and by increasing its presence within the brain, methamphetamine reinforces the perceived benefits of using it, enticing users to continue. Thus, like other drugs, meth is extremely addictive, so much so that those who attempt to quit using it suddenly can experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as exceptional cravings, depression, fatigue, psychosis and anxiety.
Those who use this drug are susceptible to overdose (OD), which results from using it excessively which then triggers a reaction which is toxic. An overdose is extremely dangerous and often results in death. This is because an OD is often accompanied by a heart attack, stroke or failure of organs such as the kidneys.
However, on some occasions, hospitals in Hong Kong have been able to save the lives of those who overdose. Since an OD is often accompanied by a stroke or heart attack, first responders or doctors working within the emergency ward will first attempt to restore the flow of blood to the area of the brain which has been effected (if the patient suffers from a stroke) or to the heart in the case of a heart attack.
In addition to organ damage, the central nervous system may also be adversely affected. This has resulted in some patients developing mental problems so serious that intensive long term therapy is required. In one case, the memory of a Hong Kong patient was so compromised that he was unable to recall either his phone number or name.
The majority of overdoses are accidental. The user might miscalculate the amount they consume, which exceeds their tolerance. Others use a drug from an unfamiliar source which is tainted, or they mix multiple substances together.
Why Ice Usage Is Increasing In Hong Kong
The growing use of ice within Hong Kong reflects increased supply and availability. The international illegal drug trade is a trillion-dollar industry which has always been closely associated with the underworld. Because of globalization, international travel, advances in technology and the presence of powerful organized crime groups within Hong Kong itself, the territory in recent years has experienced a surge in methamphetamine usage.
Another factor which has contributed to the rise of this drug is the relative ease with which it can be manufactured. Other drugs such as cocaine or opium can only be grown within certain regions under strict conditions, whereas methamphetamine is far more versatile.
Since it isn’t subject to the geographical limitations of other drugs, it is much easier to manufacture and distribute. This has led to a thriving industry within Asia where the allure of lots of easy money has led to the creation of a friend referral system which makes it easier for traffickers to find willing mules.
The Relationship Between Meth And Organized Crime
After the American government declared meth illegal during the 1970s, motorcycle gangs within the US begin to manufacture and distribute it. At this point, most of the people who abused it lived in rural areas where drugs such as cocaine were too costly to supply. By the 1990s, Mexican cartels emerged which begin establishing laboratories both in Mexico and the U.S. Some of these labs were capable of producing huge quantities of the substance, where it was then sold throughout the USA, Canada and Europe.
Aside from the Americas, a lot of the meth which appears on the streets of Hong Kong also comes from Southeast Asia. The Hong Kong triads play a key role in the distribution of meth and the epidemic which has resulted in their territories, as they are known to supply key ingredients to the cartels in Mexico.
One of the most important of these ingredients is ethyl phenyl acetate. The Asian syndicates are also known to supply ephedrine, which helps criminal groups in the Americas to circumvent restrictions placed on products which contain it. In fact, many of the seizures which have occurred in recent years are not of the actual drug itself, but the precursor chemical, especially in Latin America.
Most of the shipments come from China, and this is because the chemical industry within the mainland is known to have lax security, which has given gangs the opportunity to seize and smuggle them. In many cases certificates for end users have not been issued in Hong Kong to make sure those who are buying these precursor chemicals are their actual recipients. Aside from meth and the precursor chemicals to produce it, the Hong Kong triads and Mexican cartels also trade drugs such as cocaine, which is increasing in popularity among wealthy Asians.
Many of the people who abuse drugs in Hong Kong, especially the young, do so out of boredom, or as a way to deal with anxiety and stress. As with Western countries, there is also the impact of peer pressure. Statistics show that women under the age of 21 are a major demographic in meth abuse, and the availability of the internet, and in particular the Dark Web, has made acquiring this drug much easier than was the case in the past.
Why Hong Kong Meth Abuse Is So Difficult To Overcome
Drug addiction causes shame in most societies, but especially in Asia, where culture is deeply ingrained. In Hong Kong, it isn’t unusual for those who abuse meth, or any other drug, to be stigmatized heavily. Those who are under the influence are often terrified of their family becoming aware of the situation, and will attempt to keep it secret, out of shame and fear that the police may be called.
This makes the situation worse, because methamphetamine addiction is not something that can be overcome without help. The effect that it has on the mind and body and the cravings it creates requires more than just will power alone to stop, and quitting suddenly without professional assistance will often lead to a relapse which in turn can result in an overdose. What makes the situation in Hong Kong even direr than other places is that stigmatism involving drug abuse is present both in the healthcare sector and the population at large. As a consequence, getting patients the help they need can be challenging, even in the medical environment where it shouldn’t be.
How Authorities In Hong Kong Are Responding To The Crisis
Doctors in Hong Kong are concerned about this drug, not only due to the manner in which it harms patients, but the extent to which it can harm their families and the community at large. Aside from the burden that such cases place on the medical sector, those who are under the influence of this substance can manifest behaviours which are threatening.
Even when methamphetamine is taken in small doses, it will produce effects which are akin to other stimulants. Users will experience reduced appetite, long periods of wakefulness, rapid breathing and a heartbeat which is irregular. Another common sign of meth abuse is either an elevated body temperature or blood pressure.
Those who inject methamphetamine by needle expose themselves to additional risks, such as Hepatitis C or B and even HIV. All of these afflictions are transmitted both through bodily fluids or blood, and as with all controlled substances, those under the influence will have their judgment and inhibitions altered, being capable of doing things that they would never even consider while sober.
Many Asian countries take extreme measures to combat drugs, even executing those that are caught using or selling them. The Narcotics Division within Hong Kong has reported that instances of drug abuse within the territory have actually fallen over the last few years, but that more needs to be done to continue this success and prevent usage from resurging. Arrests and heavy-handed tactics are not enough; ice rehab in Hong Kong has also been identified as an effective way to overcome addiction.
Ice Rehabilitation Is Key To Reducing High Number Of Psychiatric Admissions In Hong Kong
While law enforcement is always necessary to combat drugs, the importance of ice addiction treatment in Hong Kong cannot be overstated. The reason for this is because meth abuse has long term effects which require complex treatment solutions.
For instance, those who use this drug for an extended period of time will develop changes within the dopamine system of their brain. These changes have been found to lower coordination, even reducing the ability to learn verbally. Adverse effects may also occur within the memory and emotions. Therefore, merely arresting and prosecuting those responsible for selling drugs in Hong Kong is not enough; efforts must be made to assist those who made the terrible choice of using the drug in the first place.
Furthermore, methamphetamine is the subject of ongoing research as there are many things drug experts still don’t know about it, particularly its long term effects. Some researchers believe there is a link between meth abuse and the onset of Parkinson’s disease, and research is being conducted to find out if second-hand smoke from meth, like that of cigarettes, causes any harm to those who are within the vicinity yet not using the drug directly.