Although Hong Kong is one of the most advanced regions in Asia, it lags behind when it comes to treating drug abuse. The CRDA (Central Registry for Drug Abuse) has stated that well over 10,000 people have sought addiction rehab in Hong Kong, and although rehab facilities are available, many of them are poorly maintained and the treatments they provide are not evidence-based.
Why Finding Quality Rehab In HK Can Be Challenging
Asian societies are extremely harsh when it comes to drug abuse. In places such as mainland China, the Philippines, Singapore and much of Southeast Asia, being caught using or selling a controlled substance is punishable and in severe cases, the penalty can even involve a death punishment.
But aside from this, Asians have great pride in their cultures, families and community. Saving face is everything to them, and most don’t want to do anything to bring dishonour or shame to their families. Many societies around the world are similar, but not to the same extent as Asia, where saving face has become a deeply ingrained part of their heritage.
This is why those in Hong Kong that make the terrible mistake of becoming addicted to drugs are extremely reluctant to reveal it to anyone, least of all their family. The most likely response will be a harsh one, and there is even the possibility that the family may disown the individual completely, which can be catastrophic. Friends might also behave in a similar manner.
Although most outsiders would expect the healthcare industry to be more understanding, the reality is that they hold the same cultural values as the community at large. Although they are willing to help those who have become addicted to drugs, their overall attitude towards them will be a negative one.
Of course, the dangers of not getting proper treatment are well established. Most controlled substances are exceptionally addictive and extremely difficult to break away from. Even if an individual somehow possesses the willpower to stop, the withdrawal symptoms that they encounter can be so severe that they might relapse and resume usage, which greatly increases the likelihood of a drug overdose.
Increasing Demand For Rehab Services
At this time, much of the drug addiction in Hong Kong is a result of methamphetamine. This has greatly increased demand for quality rehab services in recent years. Although statistics from the CRDA seem to indicate that the trend in drug abuse has gone down over the last few years, many experts dispute these findings, believing that it is merely a sign that fewer people are coming forward. Aside from meth, it is estimated that around 7 percent of the population in HK are addicted to alcohol.
Hong Kong is extremely advanced in many areas. It is competitive both regionally and internationally when it comes to education, technology and finance. The healthcare sector is also advanced technically, which has resulted in a life expectancy of about 85 years for both males and females. However, the cultural attitude towards drugs and the abuse of them has held the region back, and some feel the consequences can become dire if steps aren’t taken to remedy the problem.
Government Services vs. Private Treatment
The Narcotics Division (ND) is responsible for the coordination of drug policies throughout the region, and works to combat the spread of drug abuse. Their objective is to assist addicts in reintegrating back into society, while permanently breaking their drug habits.
Services provided by the ND include training for social skills, counselling and aftercare. Drug treatment programs are available within correctional facilities, and the HK Health Department also provides a treatment program for methadone which is provided for outpatients. Although these services are either low cost or free, as with most governmental institutions they lack the flexibility of their counterparts in the private sector.
A number of private programs are also available. Such drug treatment in Hong Kong is safe, flexible and more readily available than government services. Although inpatient care can be costly, outpatient treatment is much more affordable. In fact, the best programs coordinate with other facilities throughout Asia and provide help to those that move between regions.
The Most Frequently Abused Narcotics In Hong Kong
Methamphetamine is currently the number one drug abused in Hong Kong, but heroin is a close second. It is most popular among those who are 21 years of age or younger, and accounts for about 26 percent of the market. The third most abused drug after meth and heroin is MDMA, better known on the street as ecstasy.
Cannabis, which is also known as marijuana, is not as popular in Hong Kong as it is in the USA and Europe, only accounting for about five percent of drug use. Cocaine is also growing in popularity, but due to its high cost and the challenges involved with its production and distribution, it is mostly used by the wealthy. Statistics show that roughly thirty percent of the Hong Kong population has tried multiple drugs.
The Consequences Of Not Receiving Quality Therapy
The necessity of establishing high quality treatment centres in Hong Kong cannot be overstated. The reason for this is because drug abuse causes problems which extend far beyond the individual and will ultimately impact society as whole.
It is well known that addiction to controlled substances often results in a downward trajectory that frequently results in death. Because drug use is more heavily stigmatized in Asian societies than other places, those who get involved with it often won’t seek help for fear of embarrassment or punishment, which only exacerbates the problem.
Because illegal drugs are not regulated, there is no published standard regarding their strength and how much should be taken at any given time. Because of this, and the fact that ingredients and production procedures can differ from region to region, it isn’t unusual for users to overdose and die during their very first try. But even more alarming for society at large is the unpredictable behaviour that often results from untreated drug abuse.
Those under the influence of drugs or alcohol will often have their inhibitions lowered or removed entirely. This allows them to indulge in behaviours that would be inconceivable if they were sober. Extreme cases of violence have been reported both within Hong Kong and around the world which were committed while individuals were under the influence.
Because of the intense cravings that drugs create, it is common for addicts to steal or engage in other crimes in order to acquire the funds necessary to buy more. Additionally, criminal gangs which control the distribution of narcotics will often wage turf wars to control territory and resources, which results in innocent bystanders getting hurt.
Residential Rehab Centres
Until recently, Hong Kong wasn’t well developed when it came to rehab. As a consequence, many residents would travel to nearby locations such as Bali, Malaysia or Thailand. However, things have begun to change, with Hong Kong now boasting a number of residential and outpatient centres which are readily accessible.
These facilities are comfortable, luxurious and most important of all, effective. The therapy and aftercare which is provided has helped many successfully overcome their substance abuse. Although these facilities are considered expensive by local standards, compared to residential facilities in the USA or Canada they are quite affordable. They provide excellent value for the money and are usually located in opulent surroundings where patients will receive maximum discretion and privacy.
The greatest benefit of drug addiction treatment in Hong Kong is that it can be done discreetly, without patients having to disclose details to their family members or friends. It gives patients the opportunity to become clean without losing face or bringing dishonour to their family or community. The people of Hong Kong have shown that they excel in the areas that matter most, and drug rehab is no exception. These residential programs are already reporting high success rates, which has resulted in it becoming one of the fastest growing sectors in the region.
Individual And Group Counselling
Both individual and group counselling are at the cornerstone of effective rehabilitation. These sessions are provided by therapists who are experienced and who can assist patients who no longer need detox or complete care, or who are almost finished with their stay at the facility.
Some of the most popular group therapy options in Hong Kong include Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Most of these institutions, along with their private counterparts, follow the twelve-step system which is also practiced by other groups throughout the world.
Addiction counsellors usually work within a team that is specialized and which provide a variety of services which are therapeutic. Some of these services include generalized counselling, collaborating with adults and teenagers, making use of tools such as cognitive therapy and motivational interviews, and practicing both relaxation techniques as well as mindfulness.
The Stability Of Hong Kong Society Depends On its Response to Drug Abuse
While law enforcement will always be necessary to combat the gangs and cartels which manufacture and distribute narcotics, it does nothing to address the societal problems which will result from the many people who have become addicted to these drugs. What is alarming to many experts is that many of the most serious abusers are youth and in particular, women.
What type of outlook does a society have when its youth become addicted to these substances? It is known that those on drugs often fail to get or keep a job, don’t perform well in school, and often end up in prison. The youth of a society are the leaders of tomorrow, but in order to lead they must be focused, disciplined, respectful and clear headed. Drug abuse accomplishes the opposite of this.
Drug abuse places strain on the resources of the healthcare sector, drains the resources of law enforcement, is frequently a cause of domestic violence, and an overall a waste of money for those that abuse it. Most drug addicts will spend the equivalent of a small fortune on narcotics, only to enrich ruthless cartels which are controlled by equally ruthless leaders. Many experts have also pointed out that the illicit funds garnered by the illegal drug trade often find its way into other criminal activities, including terrorism.
Therefore, it is understandable why many Asian societies regularly execute both foreign nationals and locals who are caught using or selling these substances. But many find such measures too extreme and question their long term effectiveness. Effective rehabilitation and a culture which ingrains in children the dangers of getting involved in drugs is the best way to prevent the problem from getting out of control.
Treating Drug Addiction In Hong Kong The Right Way
A growing number of people within Hong Kong are recognising the dangers that drug abuse cause, but equally important, they are recognising that traditional ways of handling it are not effective. Those who make the mistake of getting involved with these substances should not fear turning to their families for help. The purpose of the family is to support one another.
Second, children must be taught the dangers of using these drugs from an early age, and those who grow up to begin using them should be given an opportunity to get clean and live a normal life. This is why counselling and twelve step programs have been developed, so that those who are serious about overcoming their addiction have a framework to do so.
The growing awareness of drug abuse and the adverse impact it has on society will hopefully foment a revolution within the region which will allow the problem to be resolved in a manner that is constructive rather than destructive.
Other regions in Asia are waking up to this fact as well, which most see as a step in the right direction. Irrespective of region, if drug abuse is allowed to run rampant, it will ultimately consume the society, and waste the potential of those that live within it.