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September 18, 2009

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City drug addicts: community unites

ABOUT 11,000 to 12,000 drug addicts, or a third of the city's registered addicts, are receiving treatment and rehabilitation at community centers.

Drug-control authorities started to promote the community-based intervention services early this year for targeted and non-threatening addicts and they have proved a resounding success.

Instead of being institutionalized at drug-rehabilitation centers, these addicts received health care, medication, psychological counselling, vocational training and employment support at community centers, officials told a brain health seminar in the city yesterday.

The officials also called for more one-on-one efforts to help addicts quit drugs and return to a normal social life.

"Both the government and society should change their attitudes toward drug addiction, which is actually a chronic relapsing brain disease," said Zhang Jianchen, from the Shanghai Anti-Drug Commission.

"Addicts need more care to help reduce the 90 percent relapse rate within a year of being released from drug-rehabilitation institutes."

There are about 37,000 registered city addicts, increasing by 20 percent annually.

First offenders

About 80 percent of new addicts take new drugs like crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride, also known as "ice," MDMA, or ecstasy, and ketamine.

People who are being rehabilitated at community centers include minors, those with diseases, pregnant or breast-feeding women and first offenders.

"In addition to compulsory measures, we want more medical, pharmaceutical and social professionals to participate in the campaign," said Zhang.

"For example, a Shanghai drug-abuse research center is being established.

"Led by medical experts, the center will cooperate with anti-drug authorities to study preventive measures like proper education, new anti-drug therapies, medications and other intervention methods."

Many people, especially the young, were still totally ignorant of the dangers of drugs, Zhang said.

"They think drugs such as ice and ketamine are not addictive," Zhang said. "Actually they are extremely harmful.

"In addition to causing addiction, they can lead to mental disorders and other problems like the spreading of AIDS due to unprotected sex after taking drugs."

Zhang said the anti-drug commission would cooperate with the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention to study the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among addicts and take measures to control the spread of the virus.


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