Drug truck offers 'sniffs' of ice, coke

Local | Erin Chan 16 Jun 2021

A "drug-sniffing" campaign truck will travel across the city until June 26, allowing people, including parents, to experience "sniffing" at least three illegal drugs - ice, ketamine and cocaine.

But they are not real drugs, for the police are using simulated drugs to increase parents' awareness of youngsters' drug engagement.

The simulated drugs - a joint collaboration between the narcotics bureau and Baptist University - were developed to help parents recognize their unique smell so they could identify whether their children were taking them.

"The drugs were simulated based on various documentation and organic chemicals used for making essential oils and are harmless to human health," said Catherine Hor Hong-huan, a research assistant professor at the university's department of chemistry.

Police busted 1,415 drug cases in the first five months this year - a 75 percent rise year on year - with cannabis being the most common.

In the same period, 278 youngsters were arrested for drugs - a near 60 percent increase - with the youngest being a 14-year-old.

For the whole of last year, the number of drug users aged 21 or below saw a 6 percent uptick to 525 from 494 in 2019.

Hor noted that common drugs such as cannabis can cause long-lasting damage to the brain.

"There are two major chemicals in cannabis that can interfere with neurotransmission in the brain impairing drug takers' behavior and senses," she said.

Psychiatrist Ronnie Pao Sze-yuan said taking drugs could lead to substance use disorder, impairing key body organs, such as the brain, liver and kidney.

"Around 50 to 60 percent of patients with substance use disorder have depression, anxiety or conditions as serious as psychosis," he said.

Pao also noted many drug users may be forced to partake of more than one kind of drug, pointing out ice, which can cause insomnia, as a case in point.

"To inhibit these symptoms, they take sleeping pills afterward and this ends up being a vicious cycle," he said.

The bureau's acting chief superintendent Ng Wing-sze said cocaine made up most of the hauls so far this year and saw the most significant increase, rising to 900 cases in the first five months from 13 in the same period last year.

She said the police are enforcing anti-drug education on campuses, as youngsters might have prolonged access to drug-related information on social media such as Facebook and Instagram amid the pandemic.

"Some drug traffickers even mobilize youngsters to engage in drug-trafficking activities online, telling them that they would not be punished by the law due to their young age," she said.

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