China records big rise in number of addicts taking synthetic drugs

Number of those abusing synthetic narcotics is growing 36pc each year, official figures show

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 2:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 May, 2015, 1:47am

The mainland has warned of a rapid rise in abusers of synthetic drugs, as official estimates put the country's total number of drug addicts at 14 million.

The number of registered abusers of synthetic drugs, which include methamphetamine, ketamine and ecstasy, was growing at an average of 36 per cent each year, the National Narcotics Control Commission said on Monday.

This was the first time the number - nearly 1.46 million at the end of last year - had exceeded that of registered abusers of heroin. In total, there were 2.95 million registered abusers of all types of drugs, including synthetic drugs and heroin, but the commission estimated the real figure - including those who were not registered -was over 14 million.

NNCC deputy chief Liu Yuejin said cross-border drug trafficking was also rising because of the increasing demand for drugs on the mainland. Drug production plants had also shifted from coastal areas to inland provinces, the Legal Daily quoted him as saying.

The rapid rise in the use of synthetic drugs is in line with an "unprecedented global expansion of the synthetic drugs market" reported by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime last year.

Methamphetamines, ecstasy and other synthetic drugs were now the dominant drug type of choice globally, more widely used than opium and heroin, according to the 2014 Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment.

In China, including Hong Kong, high levels of seizures of ketamine over the years had accounted for a significant share of ketamine seizures reported worldwide, the report said.

The seizures on the mainland and in Hong Kong between 2008 and 2011 made up almost 60 per cent of global ketamine seizures.

China is also becoming one of the most important manufacturing bases for these drugs.

According to the UN report, 44 ketamine laboratories were uncovered on the mainland in 2007; 81 were found in 2012.

In 2012, 228 of the 326 drug labs busted by mainland authorities were making methamphetamine. A methamphetamine lab in Hong Kong was also busted.

In January last year, a massive police operation netted 2.9 tonnes of methamphetamine at a drug plant in Lufeng , Guangdong. This year, another 2.4 tonnes was seized at another plant in the same city.

Professor Dennis Wong Sing-wing, of the City University of Hong Kong's department of applied social sciences, said synthetic drugs, made by combining chemicals, were cheaper to produce than traditional ones like heroin, which are made from poppy plants. "The rapid social development has brought people more stresses and strains that many have resorted to drugs to alleviate," Wong said.