Drug Treatment in China

Anyone who has been through a tough time at a drug rehab facility here in the United States has nothing to complain about, according to the latest stories coming out of China. The country reportedly has a very strict treatment system that it requires convicted drug abusers to go through. Police can issue requests on the spot for urine samples, and that evidence can send an offender to a compulsory drug rehab center. There is no background investigation required or any history taken to evaluate the person’s past drug use, or even a trial. The perpetrator is sent straight to a detox facility, which has a minimum stay of 2 years, but can be longer.

Once in the facility, reports say that there is no drug treatment program. Inmates go through detox on their own or with a splash of cold water to the face. There is a general lack of medical care, even for serious sicknesses or diseases. Food and care are minimal, and there are reports of abuse at these centers. For those inmates well enough to work, they are forced to work at local farms or factories, leading some to accuse the government of using these inmates as cheap labor. Nearly half a million Chinese citizens are in the system at any given time.

After a person has served their time and been released, they carry that punishment around the rest of their lives. The drug offense goes on their national identification card, branding them as drug addicts and making it difficult to get a job or lead a normal life.

Tough Punishments for Drug Crimes

China is also tough on penalties for drug traffickers. The recent execution of Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen, is one example. Shaikh, who was caught smuggling heroin into China, caused a lot of tension between the two countries. Shaikh’s family and the British government claimed the man suffered from mental illness and deserved an evaluation. China, resentful of illegal drugs being brought into the country, refused and went ahead with the execution.

Even after all the reports of a bad drug treatment system and the strict punishments of drug crimes, China still has a drug problem. You might think that the fear death or of serving 2 years in a Chinese drug rehab center would deter people, but these facilities have a 98% relapse rate.

What can we learn from China?

First of all, we can learn that even with the strictest of punishments, drug addicts can easily relapse. Prison doesn’t heal drug addicts, treatment does. It is important for those with drug problems to get counseling, support, and long term follow-up care.

Secondly, we can learn how easily drug abuse and mental illness go hand in hand. It is not unreasonable for Shaikh’s family to claim he had mental illness. We can’t deny that he committed a crime, but he could have benefitted from treatment for both drug abuse and mental illness.

It is important for those that want stricter punishments for drug abusers to take a good look at the information available and see how much more effective proper treatment is for healing abuser rather than punishment.