Drug abuse in China

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Oct;1025:439-45. doi: 10.1196/annals.1316.054.


The drug problem in China reappeared in the late 1980s. At that time, most drug abusers used opium only, with heroin accounting for a very small proportion and its use being limited to border areas in the southwest and rural areas in the northwest. Beginning in the early 1990s, drug abuse spread quickly. The number of registered drug addicts increased from 70,000 in 1990 to one million by the end of 2002. Besides opioids, some "new" kinds of drugs including amphetamines and ketamine have penetrated the country through various channels since 1997. Drug abuse has caused severe problems for both the abusers and society. Three types of treatment settings for detoxification and rehabilitation are available: compulsory detoxification institutions, rehabilitation units through labor, and voluntary detoxification institutions run by sections of public security, justice, and health, respectively. Medical treatment is often combined with psychological counseling and physical training. Pharmaceutical therapy, traditional Chinese medicine, and nonpharmaceutical therapy are utilized for opioid addiction. Drug prevention, especially for young people, is emphasized. NGOs at different levels have all joined in this work. Intervention work was also started in regions where drug abuse and HIV/AIDS problems are serious. Drug abusers are helped to keep drug free after being released from detoxification settings by their communities. Different levels of institutions engaged in research on drug abuse are found in all parts of China.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • China / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / methods
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*