Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in Asia



                        Extent of Drug Abuse

Opium and heroin are reported the most commonly abused drugs in China followed by some synthetic drugs and psychotropic substances (SDADRC 1993). Known drug abusers are estimated to be about 250,000 (China 1993).

                       Abuser Characteristics

Reports indicate that most abusers are young males. A survey in Xi'an city showed that 90 per cent of drug abusers were males, aged 25 years or younger (SDADRC 1993).

                         Regional Variations

Most drug abusers are reported found in the Yunnan and other Southwestern provinces adjacent to Myanmar (ESCAP 1991). In recent years, drug abuse problem is reported spreading from border areas to inner provinces and from countryside to urban districts (SDADRC 1993).


The abuse of drugs is reported increasing throughout China while the age of new abusers is decreasing (ESCAP 1991).

                             Mode of intake

In the border area of Yunnan province heroin is often injected, while opium is smoked. Inland, both heroin and opium are smoked (SDADRC 1993).


Drug abuse is increasingly associated with crime. In 1989, in Lanzhou City 53.1 per cent and in Xi'an 82.7 per cent of drug abusers detained had criminal records (ESCAP 1991).

            Out of the reported 585 HIV positive persons in China at the end of 1991, 537 (91.8 per cent) were infected through drug abuse (HIV 1992). By end of June 1992, a reported 890 drug abusers were tested positive as HIV carriers (SDADRC 1993).


                           National Strategy

The Chinese government has adopted a national strategic policy on drugs control, based on "Controlling illicit drug trafficking, abuse and cultivation; blocking up drug source and intercepting the flow of drug trafficking; strengthening drug law enforcement and taking both stopgap and radical measures" (Dabo, Y. 1993).

            The new law adopted in 1990, "Decision on Prohibition of Narcotic Drugs", stipulates the punishment of criminal activities in illicit trafficking, smuggling, manufacturing, cultivation and other offences like injection and ingestion of drugs (Dabo, Y. 1993).

            The National Narcotics Control Commission (NNCC) was established in 1990 composing 20 ministries. It is the central headquarters of national drug-related matters, and is responsible for the research, policy-making, determination of measures, and coordination on narcotics matters. All social spheres are mobilized by the Chinese government to tackle illicit drug trafficking and drug abuse by suppression, prevention, treatment, education and rehabilitation (SDADRC 1993).

            In 1992, "Temporary Provisions on Ephedrine Control" were formulated to prevent the diversion of ephedrine into illicit channels (China 1993).

            International cooperation has been developed to cope with drug transit problem and drug abuse. A sub-regional project has been signed by China, Myanmar and UNDCP with emphasis on drug demand reduction (SDADRC 1993).

      Structure of National Drug Control Organs

The central government unit responsible for liaison and coordination of national drug control policy is the National Narcotics Control Commission of the People's Republic of China, an independent Government unit, which was established in 1990. It has the following responsibilities: 1) studies and decides on narcotics control strategy, guidelines, policies and measures, gives guidance to nation-wide narcotics control operations,  2) coordinates issues in narcotics control involving different ministries, 3) supervises and directs the programming and implementation of drugs control operations in the provinces, autonomous regions, direct municipalities and ministries of the State Council and other functions (has to be edited).


                           Treaty adherence

China is party to the 1961 Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 Convention and the 1988 Convention.

    Measures taken with respect to Drug Control

Recently enacted laws and regulations:
In 1990, a decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on the Prohibition of Narcotic Drugs was taken. In December 1988, a Psychotropic Drug Control Act was enacted, strengthening the control of psychotropic substances.

Licensing system for manufacture, trade and distribution:
There is a government-controlled licensing system for both narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. No manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances and narcotic drugs was reported for 1990. This is not to say that no manufacture ever took place. Several narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances were reported being manufactured in 1988 and 1989.

Control system:
(i) Prescription requirement: There is a prescription requirement for supply or dispensation of preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. (ii) Warnings on packages: The law requires warnings on packages or accompanying leaflet information to safeguard the users of preparations containing narcotic drugs but does not require warnings for preparations containing psychotropic substances. (iii) Control of non-treaty substances, if any: None reported. (iv) Other administrative measures: In 1990, the National Narcotics Control Commission was established in order to coordinate all activities in the area of drug control and to establish national drug control policies.

                            Social Measures

Penal Sanctions related to social measures: In 1990, courts applied measures of treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation or social reintegration for a drug-related offence neither as an alternative nor in addition to conviction or punishment. Prior to 1990, the questions of the annual reports questionnaire were left blank.

Other social measures: For 1988, it was reported that efforts were made in drug detoxification and interdiction in accordance with the targets described in the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline. Social measures included the establishment of treatment and rehabilitation centres in several cities of the Yunnan province. Further efforts were made for the setting up of a national drug dependent treatment centre in Beijing to strengthen scientific research in that field.


                          Primary Prevention

Young people such as middle-school students are targeted as the main recipients of drug education activities (China 1993). A textbook by National Narcotics Control Commission is used in the primary and secondary schools to teach students on narcotic drugs and how to avoid dangerous drugs (SDADRC 1993).

            To raise social awareness, extensive activities publicizing the danger of illicit drugs are carried out (China 1993). Newspapers, radio broadcasts, TV programmes, exhibitions, and other events are used to evoke people's awareness of national drug legislation, the government's comment against narcotic drugs, the dangers posed by drugs and drug abuse, and drug-related crimes (SDADRC 1993). Reading materials on narcotics control are published by the NNCC and distributed nationwide. Various mass campaigns were carried out in provinces where illicit drug problem existed. Two million copies of anti-drug posters were printed and distributed throughout the country by the office of the NNCC (China 1993).

                 Treatment and Rehabilitation

Compulsory drug detoxification is provided in 252 centres.  Voluntary drug rehabilitation is available in 11 centres.  Some of these centres receive assistance from UNDCP and ESCAP (SDADRC 1993).

            Both voluntary and compulsory methods are used in drug treatment programmes. In 1991, about 41,000 and in 1992, about 46,000 drug abusers underwent compulsory drug detoxification according to incomplete national statistics (SDADRC 1993).

            The central and local governments provide miscellaneous treatment and rehabilitation services, including psychological counselling and medical treatment (China 1992).


      Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

In April and September 1990, Chinese police arrested 25 people belonging to two international drug rings (ESCAP 1991). In 1991, 18,479 drug offenders were arrested, including 829 foreigners (China 1992).


In 1990, 1,651.249 kg of heroin and 813.575 kg of opium were seized (U.N. 1990). 1,959 kg of heroin and 2,026 kg of opium were seized in 1991 along with 328 kg of cannabis, 33 kg of morphine and 454 kg of stimulants (Other 1991). The reported figures for 1992 were 4,489 kg of heroin, 2,680 kg of opium, 910 kg of cannabis and 655 kg of stimulants (Other 1992).

            In 1991, 49 tonnes of essential chemicals or precursors were seized (China 1992), while in 1992, it was 58.8 tonnes (China 1993). Additionally, about 3.3 million pieces of opium poppy (in approximately 20 hectares) were destroyed in 1991 (China 1992).


                      Supply Source of Drugs

Myanmar is reported as the source of most drugs brought into China (SDADRC 1993).

            Illicit drug traffickers in the Golden Triangle area use China as a transit channel.  An illicit drug consumption market is reported to have developed along this traffick route,  demonstrating that a drug transit problem will lead to drug abuse in that country (SDADRC 1993).


                       References and Notes

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years 1988-90.

U.N. 1988,1989,1990. Replies to the UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years 1988, 1989 and 1990.

China 1992. Statement by Mr. Chen Shiqiu, Head of the Chinese Delegation, at the 35th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. 7 April 1992.

China 1993. Statement by Mr. Chen Shiqiu, Head of the Chinese Delegation, at the 36th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Vienna, 30 March 1993.

Dabo, Y. 1993. Statement at Workshop of National Focal Points. Mr. Ye Dabo, Representative of China On Drug Abuse Demand Reduction. Bangkok, 11 August 1993.

ESCAP 1991. Proceedings of the Meeting of Senior Officials in Asia and the Pacific. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Tokyo, 13-15 February 1991.

HIV 1992. Country Report, People's Republic of China. Sub-Regional Seminar on the Social and Economic Implications of HIV/AIDS. Kunming, China, 22-26 September 1992.

Other 1991,1992. Obtained from one or more seizure reports provided by Government or from other official sources for the years 1991 and 1992.

SDADRC 1993. Situation of Drug Abuse and Demand Reduction in China. Senior Officials Meeting on Strengthening of the Regional Network of National Focal Points on Drug Abuse Demand Reduction. Bangkok, 1-4 February 1993.