2008-06-26 06:46:15 GMT 2008-06-26 14:46:15 (Beijing Time) China Daily
Drugs confiscated from smugglers and traders are burned in Yinchuan of Nixia Hui Autonomous Region June 25, 2008. [Xinhua]
The authorities have launched a community-based drug rehabilitation program (CBDR) in line with the new Anti-Drug Law that is proving to be a breakthrough in the nationwide battle against narcotics, officials and sociologists have said.
The law, which took effect on June 1, focuses on the treatment of drug addicts rather punishment, Professor Xia Guomei from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences told China Daily yesterday, the eve of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Drug abusers under the CBDR have to report every month to social workers who are responsible for their health condition.
Under the law, the drug addicts are also subject to regular and surprise urine tests. Those who fail the tests are transferred to isolated compulsive drug rehabilitation.
In return, addicts can get help in employment, schooling and social welfare.
Vice-Minister of Public Security Zhang Xinfeng said the CBDR method is more humane.
"It works better in reducing the number of drug users through a more relaxing environment, particularly for those who are determined to quit drugs," he said.
An anti-drug abuse police officer based in Wuxi of Jiangsu province, surnamed Zhi, also hailed the move.
"It's more effective for new drug users," Zhi said.
Drug users were previously sent to isolated compulsive drug rehabilitation centers or jails, where they got more involved in drugs through other addicts, Zhi said.
Only a return to a normal environment can help drug users kick the habit more easily, he said.
However, more can be done for better law enforcement of drugs, Xia said.
Currently, CBDR social workers hired by the government are mainly neighborhood community workers and retired police officers, Xia said.
These social workers lack medical knowledge that is helpful in treating drug addicts. Drug addicts can sometimes shun these social workers as well.
Xia said peer support and education given by drug users can be more effective as they are familiar with the pain and issues of the addiction.
But the current law does not allow for such an avenue, Xia said.
Similarly, the CBDR poses additional financial burden on the government and can be difficult to sustain, she said.
Many drug users currently cooperate with social workers in exchange for benefits including subsidies and job opportunities, she said.
There is also about one such worker catering to every 50 drug addicts, Xia said.
"How can the social workers fulfil their task well?" she asked.
In the past, such social workers were mainly trained in knowledge related to the traditional drug heroin. They now face formidable challenges in the form of new drugs such as methamphetamine, widely known as Ice, and ketamine, she added.
"Being at the frontline of the anti-drug war, they need to be trained to face these new drugs to be effective in the CBDR," Xia said.
The age of drug abuse solely associated with discarded syringes for heroin injection is over, she said.
"The new drugs, which damage users' brains more seriously than heroin, are usually used at mass binges involving many young people," she said.
Of the 1 million-odd known drug users in China, about 16 percent are taking the new types of drugs, with a majority still hooked on heroin, latest statistics from the Ministry of Public Security showed.
"The number of new drug takers is underestimated and rising constantly," Xia said.
However, a considerable number of anti-drug workers still hold the misconception that the new drugs are less harmful than heroin and do not pay equal attention to the social threat, she said.