The Chinese government is vigorously promoting methadone replacement therapy to drug addicts in a bid to curb the spread of AIDS and hepatitis caused by injections.
All together 101 methadone clinics have been set up in the country and the number will increase to 305 by the end of the year.
Methadone, a synthesized narcotic which is far less noxious than morphine hydrochloride, is widely used internationally as a substitution drug to help addicts break their addiction.
In China's methadone clinics, a cup of methadone drink that helps addicts slake their thirst for drugs only costs 10 yuan. Methadone weans addicts off drug injections, helping stop the spread of AIDS and other contagious diseases.
Those undergoing methadone replacement therapy are required to take regular urine tests. The results are recorded in a national data base run by police authorities. According to the notice recently issued by the Ministry of Public Security, those who persist in using drugs will be sent to institutions for compulsory drug abstinence.
"Methadone replacement therapy does more than just prevent infectious diseases, such as AIDS and hepatitis. It helps addicts rebuild family relations and will also reduce the number of drug smuggling cases," said Yao Zhibin, deputy director of Guangdong Province's Health Bureau.
On August 3, Wang Longde, vice Minister of Health, upbraided local officials who refused to set up methadone clinics. Wang said some officials feared that methadone clinics would have a negative effect on overseas investment, because businessmen might infer from the presence of a methadone clinic in an area that there were many drug addicts, and might abandon their investment plans.
The Regulation on AIDS Prevention and Control that came into effect in March 2006 stipulates that governments at various levels are duty-bound to launch drug replacement therapy to curb drug abuse and the spread of AIDS.
The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Public Security and the State Food and Drug Administration have jointly issued a document demanding that governments at different levels cooperate closely to promote methadone replacement therapy in communities, and strictly enforce the regulations.
(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2006)