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Drug-Related Social Media Posts in Hong Kong Increase Threefold Since 2016

Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups research found that drug-related social media posts saw a threefold rise from 927 to 3114 in 2016. RTHK News. This survey also targets cannabidiol. Authorities consider banning this up-and-coming cannabis derivative.

A study released last week also showed an increase of video views over the same time for drug-related content. It went from approximately 3.4 to 7.6million.

Researchers also found that users of social media posted many different types of content during the time period. These included popular memes, hashtags, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), to encourage drug use. NFTs have grown in popularity over the years as a unique digital asset, often taking the form of art, that can’t be copied.

“We found some NFT in the high-risk websites,” said Michael Leung, who works for the group’s youth crime prevention center. Leung added that high-risk users utilizing memes, hashtags, cartoon characters and NFTs to promote drugs “causes some users to underestimate the risks and severity of drug abuse problem.”

The group also polled around 1,300 younger adults, from November 2021 to July 2022, and found that 20% “underestimated the harm of drugs.” Specifically, more than one-fifth of respondents believed they were able to control “any cravings” for drugs. A little over 18% said that they believed drugs were able to relieve anxiety.

It was also discovered that over half of all drug-related postings originated on a platform similar to Reddit. The platform is called LIHKG and it’s followers are Instagram and HKGolden. The study found that half of the content recorded by it refers to cannabis. Cocaine and methamphetamine are featured in 8.4% and 11.6% of respective posts.

Leung said that some recent drug interest was due to the COVID-19 epidemic, which saw many people being confined in their own homes who used social media less frequently since 2020.

CBD is one of many drugs which has seen an increase in traffic in this time frame. There have been 43,980 related views since 2021, and 5,707 new images in 2019. Bob Lee Siu-chui, a supervisor of the federation’s youth crime prevention center, said that CBD in particular has been advertised as a stress-relief and healthcare product “for enticement, lowering the wariness among young people,” South China Morning Post reports.

CBD is legal in Hong Kong, so long as it doesn’t contain THC.

“Some products may contain THC, an easily addictive substance that is regulated by the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance,” Lee said. Lee expressed concerns that CBD might be used as a way for youth to sell and use other drugs.

In turn, the city’s law enforcement agencies are currently pushing to outlaw CBD within the year, stressing the illegal status of cannabis in an attempt to dissuade residents from trying out the non-psychoactive cannabinoid.

“There is a trend in Hong Kong that some online users discuss CBD,” Leung said, adding that “many people” have underestimated the risks of CBD and the severity of damages cannabis can cause.

The spokesperson explained South China Morning Post The government will seek to outlaw CBD products by 2023.

“The government has taken a firm stance against cannabis and repeatedly stated that the use, cultivation, manufacturing, trafficking…of cannabis and controlled cannabis products are illegal and will remain so,” he said. “We will continue to educate the public, especially young people, to correctly understand that cannabis is a drug and it is harmful to health.”

The 2016 Brookings Institution report, “A People’s War: China’s Struggle to Contain its Illicit Drug Problem,” notes that China has faced a growing problem of illicit drug use. The amount of registered drug addicts increased every year until publication since the government’s first annual drug enforcement report in 1998. This is likely due to the stigma attached to drug addiction. It is not supported by government funding and sympathy.

“There are two main strategies for treating addiction in China: (1) enrollment in compulsory detoxification centers, and (2) sentencing to ‘education through labor’ camps,” the report reads.

Instead, Sheldon X. Zhang, a professor at San Diego State University, and Ko-lin Chin from Rutgers University, recommended China adopt a public-health approach to treating addicts. They also recommend China encourage evidence-based treatment programs based on scientific research.

“While not a silver bullet, perhaps China … should also consider experimenting with a more compassionate approach oriented toward harm reduction,” the authors concluded.