Q: It's a tough job for any country to help addicts quit using drugs. How many drug users are there in China? What damage does drug addiction cause to the economy and society? What measures has the government taken to help addicts quit?
A: At the end of 2004, there were 791,000 registered drug users in China. Their ranks increased considerably as forms of drug use diversified, with many abusers becoming addicted to more than one drug. Most addicts are young people, bums and migrants, and of all registered drug users in China, 72.2 percent are under the age of 35.
The drug situation has seriously damaged the Chinese economy. The country's registered heroin addicts consume heroin worth 27 billion yuan (US$3.26 billion) every year. The drug problem also jeopardizes public security, giving rise to drug-related crimes. Of the entire registered drug addict population, 80 percent of male users were involved in other illegal activities, while 80 percent of the females worked as prostitutes. In some areas, drug addicts are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of robberies and thefts. As well, the use of narcotics jeopardizes physical and mental health. For example, 55.3 percent of China's 50,000 confirmed AIDS patients became infected with HIV through intravenous drug injection.
In any country, drug abuse is always a crucial political problem to security and prosperity. With this understanding, the Chinese Government attaches great importance to the rehabilitation of drug abusers, through compulsory rehabilitation, rehabilitation through education and labor, and volunteer rehabilitation programs carried out by health institutions with a focus on education and helping users to quit drugs and start a new life.
With an aim of enhancing the ability of teenagers to say no to drugs, the Chinese Government launched drug prevention courses in primary and middle schools nationwide in 2004. At the same time, the government initiated several anti-drug education campaigns, including a pilot program of drug prevention education at 100 middle schools, community-level law schools for teenagers, and a community-level drug-free campaign for teenagers.
The government carried out its national anti-drug campaign in depth by unfolding a program of investigation, rehabilitation, help and education through four main measures.
First, the government worked to strengthen the registration and supervision of drug users by establishing a supervision system and adopting the epidemiological method of investigation, supervision and appraisal of all kinds of addicts.
Second, the government undertook to further the intense drug rehabilitation work launched nationwide by making all rehabilitation centers operate at full capacity, striving to establish more facilities, and devoting special sections in the existing drug rehabilitation centers to HIV/AIDS-infected addicts and other special cases.
Third, the government put effort into exploring a variety of rehabilitation modes, further improving the method of combining compulsory rehabilitation with rehabilitation through labor, guiding some local governments to take advantage of available resources to rehabilitate drug abusers through hard labor, and promoting a comprehensive technique of closed-door rehabilitation through a combination of labor and education.
Fourth, to free smaller communities from the shadow of drug abuse, the government is focusing on counties (cities or districts) with more than 1,000 drug addicts, tentatively establishing a system of supervision, control and education of addicts in various forms, expanding the number of anti-drug volunteers and strengthening efforts to help and educate addicts in order to improve rehabilitation success rates.
The Chinese Government has basically realized its goal of putting all visible drug addicts under control and limiting the number of new addicts, further alleviating the damage drug abuse causes to society and helping people realize the importance of an anti-drug campaign. Currently, with the population of former drug addicts who have been clean for at least three years reaching 88,000, China's efforts to combat drug use has achieved a certain effectiveness.