Monday, 14 September 2009

A Thought about Drug Abuse

Perhaps it is a bit too late to talk about the proposed pilot drug tests at schools in Tai Po, which have met strong opposition from students and teachers. Like many other issues, the Hong Kong Government and general public are often too much obsessed with the operational details. The overwhelming focus on feasibility and operational perfection often overshadows the original intention and positioning of the proposed actions, leading to their doomed failure.

The proposed drug tests are no exception. Notwithstanding the debate on whether or not the drug tests should be implemented, and how, few seem to have asked the crucial question: What is the purpose of having the drug tests? What are they meant to achieve?

This is a fundamental question to which an answer must be given in order to provide a meaningful basis for debate on the operational details and for that matter. The failure to set the scene in the first place only demonstrates how poorly the programme is planned and positioned.

To be honest, I find the Government's proposal and its intentions incomprehensible. Nothing I have read so far gives me a clear definition of the objectives of the pilot test in Tai Po schools and a quick overview of what has been proposed. Neither the official web site of the Narcotics Division of the Security Bureau bothers to provide this important information. All I can find on the web site are links to fragmented information and responses to criticisms and questions about the proposed drug tests.

Let me do some wild guessing here. If the Government wants to know how serious the problem of youth's drug abuse has become, why not push forward a compulsory programme whereby all young people under 18 or 21 are required to undergo the test? Why is it positioned as a voluntary programme that can be overridden by parents' written consent?

If the Government wants to issue a strong signal against youth drug abuse, why will those students found to have abused drug be spared of any legal action? On what assumption or basis can we grant this generous leniency to the youth? If the teenagers do not have to shoulder legal responsibilities for their misbehaviour, how strong can the anti-drug message possibly be?

If the Government really wants to combat youth drug abuse, why just focuses on secondary schools? Does it mean the Government officials think only secondary schools in the so-called grassroot districts like Tai Po are affected? Does it assume that young adults like university students will not abuse drug? How valid is this assumption? In any case, what kind of measures will the Government take to address the problem of drug abuse on university campus, if any?

If the Government is serious about combating youth drug abuse, how effective will the drug tests at school be in identifying the root causes of the problem? How much will the tests contribute to nipping drug abuse in the buds?

Can someone please answer these questions? Thank you.

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