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Country 'could have 2.3m' drug addicts
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There could be 2.3 million drug abusers in the country, a senior anti-drug official said yesterday.

The number of known drug addicts in the country has risen to 1 million from 900,000 in 2006, according to the 2008 Annual Report on Drug Control in China.

But Yang Fengrui, director of the anti-drug bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, said: "Our investigations in some high-risk cities show the ratio between known and unidentified drug addicts is about 1:1.3."

That means it is suspected up to 1.3 million addicts are yet to be identified. Plus, the threat posed by new types of drugs is increasing.

Yang was speaking on the sidelines of a State Council Information Office news briefing on the eve of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, where the figures were released.

About 80 percent of the drug abusers are addicted to heroin, he said. But the number of those addicted to new types of drugs such as Ice and Ketamine is growing rapidly, especially among people below 35. "Migrant workers in cities have become a high-risk group".

Although intensified police efforts have curbed drug supplies, Yang said the fight against narcotics remains tough. Last year, police cracked 56,600 drug-related cases across the country, 22 percent more than in 2006.

The problem created by new types of drugs is pressing. Police figures show that 5.8 tons of Ice was seized in the country last year, up 26 percent over 2006, though heroin seizures fell to 5.9 tons from the 6.6 tons in 2006.

More new drugs, especially Ice and Ketamine, are being made in China. "The plants making these are scattered across the country, making police crackdown even harder."

Early this month, police in Dongguan, Guangdong province, cracked a major drug case in which four underground workshops were demolished, more than 400 kg of Ketamine seized and 30 suspects nabbed.

In March, about 200 kg of Ketamine and four guns were found in an underground drug workshop in Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan.

To check drug-trafficking, police will tighten checks at borders and other entry and exit points and entertainment venues such as nightclubs, Yang said.

A publicity campaign will be launched to raise public awareness against the dangers of drugs, especially among high-risk groups.

Law enforcement agencies will intensify their crackdown in Olympic host cities to ensure a "drug-free" Games, Yang said.

The authorities will start a campaign to prevent drugs being smuggled into China, especially into the cities hosting the Olympic events.

(China Daily June 26, 2008)

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