Govt’s anti-drug campaigns lack creativity: survey

Friday, July 31, 2009
Issue 779, Page 2
Word count: 711
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

A recent survey on juvenile drug abuse suggested that the government’s anti-drug publicity work was ineffective and a school-based drug testing scheme could be introduced in Macau.

Conducted by the Macao Jiangmen Communal Society (MJCS) between July 25 and 26, the survey interviewed 336 parents whose children were studying in primary or secondary school, and 153 young people aged from 11 to 20.

In a press conference held yesterday to disclose the findings, MJCS vice president Mak Soi Kun said both parents and juvenile groups agreed that “peer influence” and “rebellious mindset” were the major factors that drove young people into drugs.

In addition, “looking for happiness and excitement” was another underlying reason.

In regard to the effectiveness of the government’s publicity campaigns against drug abuse, the parent and juvenile respondents gave a consistent comment that 50 percent of each group deemed the work was productive.

When asked the other halves of respondents why the government’s anti-drug campaigns were not persuasive enough, the two groups both believed that the “unappealing publicity tactics” and “the failure to arouse resonance of young people” were to blame.

The survey also found that a majority of the parent and juvenile groups deemed that the government did not do enough to help young drug takers quit the addiction and reconstruct a normal and healthy life.

As well, a large part of the respondents believed that the presence of more recreational facilities and healthy social venues would effectively minimise the possibility of young people getting into drugs during the summer holidays.

Since Hong Kong is planning to introduce a trial scheme for school-based drug testing in September promoted by the increase in juvenile drug abuse, the parent respondents were asked in the survey whether they would support the implementation of such scheme in Macau.

It was found that more than 83 percent of the 336 parents favoured such plan.

In addition, some 78 percent of them said they would let their children be tested for drugs if the scheme was launched in Macau.

In response to the findings, the Macao Jiangmen Communal Society made a string of suggestions in a bid to improve the situation and better prevent young people from taking drugs.

Not only did the association urge the reinforcement of regional cooperation against drug trafficking and police patrols in entertainment venues, it also advocated the implementation of the voluntary drug testing scheme in local high schools.

Mr Mak said that the scheme would allow the authority to provide treatment and counselling services to young drug users at an early stage and also offer the government accurate data to set out more appropriate anti-drug policies.

Although Chief Executive-Elect Fernando Chui Sai on July 20 said when meeting a group of young people that only when the situation was getting worse, would Macau start the study on the introduction of legislation to obligate drug users to receive rehabilitation services, Mr Mak said MJCS still hoped that Mr Chui would change his mind in his term of office.

The association at the same time suggested the government to pay attention to the “taste” of young people in order to present a more “creative and fashionable” anti-drug campaign.

The establishment of 24-hour youth activity centres was also proposed so as to provide a proper meeting point for young people at night.

Another MJCS vice president Winnie Ye pointed out the importance of family support and an intimate relationship with the family for the youth.

She urged parents to seek for professional assistance immediately when their children encountered problems before it was too late.

During yesterday’s press conference, a video was played that showed the interview with a 27-year-old woman who used to take ketamine for about nine years since she was in high school.

She told the audience how the drugs badly affected her health and in the worst condition she had to urinate, with pain, every 15 minutes.

Eventually she had to remove and reconstruct her bladder at the end of 2008.

If she was given another chance, she said that she would never touch the drugs as it was “very hard to quit”.

She is now in the post-surgery recovery period and said that without her family’s support she would not be able to overcome the ordeal.

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