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NEWS - Fighting Heroin Habits the
- Subject: NEWS - Fighting Heroin Habits the
- From: Rangoonp@xxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 13:37:00
Subject: NEWS - Fighting Heroin Habits the Chinese Way
Captivity and Labor: Fighting Heroin Habits the Chinese Way
KUNMING, China (AP) -- At a walled campus in China's
southwest, where heroin is cheap and plentiful,
addicts as young as 16 sit at tables making paper bags.
Outside, others shout and march in military-style drills.
The compound is run by police, and its 2,000 residents
there unwillingly, prisoners of China's policy of
growing drug abuse by locking up addicts to break their
Treatment is simple: three months of labor, counseling
regimented schedule. It is little changed from the
Communist Party used after taking power in 1949 to stamp
out opium smoking. Residents raise pigs, run the laundry
and sing in a chorus.
To that, the Kunming center -- China's biggest -- has
a new element, traditional herbal medicine. Instead of
on methadone, a heroin substitute commonly used to ease
withdrawal, the center says its addicts receive only
capsules of its own invention.
"For the first three to seven days, we give them the
medications. After that, they don't need them," said Fan
Laijian, the center director.
It isn't clear how well that method works. Independent
researchers haven't studied it. A group of foreign
given a tightly scripted tour of the center was shown a
the ingredients in the herbal treatment. But Fan would
allow samples to be taken away.
The listed ingredients are used as sedatives and blood
detoxifiers, said Benjamin Chan, a lecturer in the
Chinese medicine program at the University of Hong Kong.
He added that the mixture could reduce withdrawal
The center says 85 percent of addicts treated there go
to heroin. That is comparable to a 75 percent average in
United States and elsewhere, but it isn't clear how the
Chinese figures are measured.
Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, lies at the heart of
booming drug trade. Bordering major producers Burma and
Laos, Yunnan is the gateway for a flood of heroin that
north to Chinese cities or east to the coast for shipment
Until a mid-1990s crackdown, drug deals took place openly
on Kunming streets, local people say. Police say heroin
readily available for 100 yuan ($12.50) per gram.
Authorities say mandatory treatment has cut Yunnan's
number of known addicts by 23 percent since 1991, but it
still has at least 44,000. Nationwide, China reports
addicts, but independent researchers say the real number
Yunnan's heroin trade is growing in spite of the decline
users, with seizures by police up 30 percent last year,
Sun Dahong, the province's chief anti-drug official.
"The drug problem in Yunnan remains severe," he said.
Residents of the 10-year-old Kunming center reflect
demographics of drug use: Three-quarters male, 80 percent
under 25 and many jobless.
Chen Kuan, 24, seems typical. Unemployed and bored, he
said he smoked heroin with friends for a little over a
before being sent to the center two months earlier.
"After I came here, I lost interest in drugs. It's
nothing at all
now," Chen said as he pasted together tiny paper bags
destined to hold powdered Chinese medicines.
But his chances of staying clean are low, especially if
can't find a job -- a difficult goal in a time of
Unemployment "is a big factor contributing to the relapse
rate," said Zhang Yuzu, political director of the center.
Former residents can be returned to the center up to
times, "but if they have a lot of relapses, we can send
to a labor camp," said Fan, the director.
Set amid vegetable fields on the outskirts of Kunming,
center is a complex of gray concrete buildings that looks
more like a high school than a prison.
During a visit by reporters, a group of residents played
basketball with guards. About 60 listened to a health
by a white-coated police officer. Haggard recent arrivals
stood in line waiting for their thrice-daily dose of
Despite being in captivity, residents have to pay up to
yuan ($500) for their treatment. Part of that comes from
of pigs and goods made by residents, which bring in about
$250,000 a year.
"Most of them cannot pay their rehabilitation costs, so
work here to pay them," Fan said.
Copyright 1999& The Associated Press