The number of registered mainland drug addicts increased by 6.8 per cent to 791,000 last year, the government announced yesterday as it appealed to the public for help to combat the problem. The deputy secretary-general of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, Yang Fengrui , said police had arrested 67,000 drug traffickers last year and seized 10.8 tonnes of heroin, 2.7 tonnes of methamphetamine, 3 million Ecstasy tablets and 160 tonnes of precursor chemicals. Among the drug addicts, 70 per cent were aged below 35, 30 per cent were farmers and 45 per cent were unemployed. Heroin remained the biggest problem, accounting for 85 per cent of addictions, or 679,000 people. Mr Yang said drug addiction among the young was a particularly serious problem, but the percentage of addicts aged below 35 had dropped from 77 per cent in 2001. In the first four months of this year, 19,000 suspected drug traffickers were arrested, and 3.85 tonnes of heroin, 1 tonne of methamphetamine and 198,000 tablets of Ecstasy seized. Mr Yang described the drug problem as grim. 'The drug problem is still spreading in China,' he said. 'The outstanding problem is that the infiltration of drugs from different directions has not been curbed. The infiltration of drugs from the Golden Triangle has been particularly damaging. 'We're facing drug syndicates from Southeast Asian nations in the Golden Triangle, the Golden Crescent region in central Asia and from the Korean Peninsula.' He said most of the drugs produced in the Golden Triangle were trafficked to China. Apart from heroin, the rise of methamphetamine production in the area was also alarming. More than a tonne of methamphetamine was trafficked to Yunnan from northern Myanmar last year, he said. Mr Yang said the central government had decided to launch a massive 'people's war' against drugs because the problem was 'complicated' and 'extremely serious'. 'The drug problem is very complicated. It is affected by international factors and domestic factors. The drug problem is a social problem and it is certainly ineffective [to try to control it] by relying on a single department.' He said the government would launch a massive education campaign targeting high-risk groups such as young people and also step up enforcement efforts. About 273,000 people were sent to compulsory drug treatment centres last year and 68,000 to 'education through labour' camps. Liu Yuejin, deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security's narcotics control bureau, said the rise in seizures of precursor chemicals was an alarming trend and the government would soon announce new regulations targeting pharmaceutical companies that sold such chemicals for illicit use.