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Drug addicts jump 20 percent

THE number of drug addicts in Shanghai has climbed nearly 20 percent in recent years, and about four-fifths of those who get hooked are using newly popular drugs that cause hallucinations and result in crimes, the Shanghai Anti-Drug Commission said yesterday.

The commission highlighted the figure at the start of a month-long campaign to raise awareness of banned drugs.

The spread of abuse of new varieties of drugs, including methamphetamine, or "ice," MDMA, or ecstasy, and ketamine, coincide with an increasing drug trade that poses an enormous challenge to the city's drug control, officials said.

The city had 32,255 drug addicts by the first quarter of this year, accounting for 15.47 people per 10,000 population, with nearly half under the age of 35, the commission said.

The real situation could be worse. "According to international practice, one known drug user comes with four to eight addicts not recorded. By rough reckoning, Shanghai has hundreds of thousands drug abusers," said Zhou Weihang, the commission director.

Over 80 percent of recently exposed drug addicts take new varieties of drugs, the commission said. Most abusers suffered mental disorders caused by amphetamines, which can severely damage a user's nervous system and produce hallucinations.

The commission has found frequent cases in which addicts thought they were about to be murdered after taking "ice" and fatally hurt people while they thought they were defending themselves.

"This year a clubber took 'ice' during raves and had a hallucination after a snap. He then stabbed a female server to death with a fruit knife and injured a friend who tried to stop him," Zhou said.

Taking the new varieties of drugs is considered fashionable, especially among young abusers, Zhou said. "They don't realize those drugs are illicit, and its damage to their brain can never recover."

Police said large drug cases are reported more frequently. "Shanghai has become a major hub for cross-border drug trafficking to southern China," said You Wei from the Shanghai police.

The traffic of illicit drugs from overseas is escalating. In the first five months of this year, city police cracked 19 drug-smuggling cases from the "Golden Crescent" region, compared with only one case in the same period last year.


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