Lan Kwai Fong
Going to LKF with friends is almost a rite of passage for teens in Hong Kong, but are we taught and equipped with the necessary knowledge to keep ourselves safe, and the skills to maintain public and personal safety in times of need?
The area of Lan Kwai Fong was once dedicated to street hawkers before undergoing a mass development during the mid-1980s, evolving into the square of streets known today as a popular nighttime haunt for those looking to drink, party and socialise in the heart of Central. Special occasions and events, in particular the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, Halloween and New Year’s Eve is when the streets of Lan Kwai Fong flood with eager partygoers, the crowds at a standstill from the vast number of people and police assigned to maintain public safety.
The legal age for drinking is 18 in Hong Kong, and the law covered the sale and supply to minors within the premises of bars and restaurants - up until legislation passed in 2018, covering supermarkets, convenience stores and vending machines.
A survey conducted by the Security Bureau in 2014-2015 found more than 50% of almost 150,000 participating students from upper primary to post-secondary schools in Hong Kong had tried alcohol. Almost 40% of those students were aged 12 and under, and more than 20% were aged 10 or below. Another survey conducted by the Youth Research Centre saw over 20% of those surveyed admitting to drinking alcohol under 18.
Drinking alcohol can lower a person's inhibitions and increase the risk of engaging in behaviours including violence, reckless driving, unsafe sex, and drug use when drinking underage. The consequences that may come from engaging in risky behaviours can be life-changing, even fatal, when under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Among the long-term effects of excessive drinking are the increased risks of developing alcohol-related chronic diseases and conditions, such as liver disease, nerve damage, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, strokes, and cancer. Early initiation into drinking of alcohol can also pose the danger of developing alcohol dependence and/or drug addiction later in life.
Any situation involving alcohol, drugs and intoxication can pose a serious and even life-threatening threat to those engaged in those activities, such as alcohol poisoning, adverse reactions, injuries, and date rape.
What can you do to prevent this from happening?
Before going out, inform your parents (or a legal guardian) where you will be during the night, and what time you expect to be home. Ensure you have a safe place to stay at the end of the night and always keep a well-charged phone on you, along with enough money if needed in an emergency.
Go with a group of friends and plan out your night. Always let each other know where you will be and never leave someone behind. Never leave your drink unattended and keep an eye out on your friends' drinks. Never accept a drink from someone you don't know, and avoid punch bowls or jugs. Stick to bottled drinks as these can easily be covered with your thumb to avoid drink spiking. If you think your drink has been tampered with, stop drinking immediately and tell a friend.
Try to eat a meal beforehand to lessen the effects from the alcohol, and limit alcohol intake to a minimum. Understand your limits when drinking alcohol and never push your limit. Do not drink under the influence of medication or drugs - this may be fatal.
Here are some things to know in the case of an emergency:
Remember: DO NOT put yourself at risk if the scene is unsafe, or if you are incapacitated and unable to assist.
For an intoxicated person:
Assess the area and make sure the intoxicated person is in a safe place. DO NOT put yourself at risk if the scene is unsafe.
Be calm but firm when addressing them. DO NOT provoke a fight with them.
Lie the intoxicated person on their side with knees up - this will prevent them from choking if/when they vomit. DO NOT attempt to induce vomiting.
If the person is unconscious, unresponsive and/or not breathing - CALL AN AMBULANCE.
Check the intoxicated person’s breathing every 15 minutes. DO NOT leave them alone.
If you or a friend has been spiked:
Immediately stop drinking if you notice a change of appearance such as cloudiness, excessive bubbling or change of colour in your drink, or if your drink suddenly tastes extremely bitter or salty - as it may have been tampered with and spiked. The most commonly used date rape drugs are Rohypnol, GHB and ketamine. They may come in pill, liquid, or powder form which can easily be hidden and concealed on the person.
The warning signs if you suspect that you or a friend have been spiked are:
Feeling unusually drowsy, lightheaded and/or disorientated
Confusion or lack of awareness
Difficulty speaking, moving and balancing
Nausea and vomiting
Blurred vision or hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there)
Feelings of anxiety or paranoia
‘Out of body’ experience (as if experiencing from third-person)
Loss of consciousness
Tell a trusted person and have them move you to a safe place if you feel you may have been exposed to a date rape drug. Immediately call 999 and get to the emergency department of the nearest hospital for monitoring and testing. Urine or blood tests can pick up traces of certain drugs up to 24 hours later.