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China and Vietnam Unite to Control Drug Trafficking

Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 17:50

China and Vietnam are joining forces to strengthen cross-border drug trafficking control after their immense success in confiscating illicit drugs. The China National Narcotics Control Commission (CNNCC) recently revealed that together, China and Vietnam have confiscated some 228.3 kilograms of heroin in four months. The aim is for these countries to continue collaborating in the near future, since a joint approach is crucial to curb the worrisome drug problem.


China first intensified its drug control policy to stop smuggling in Yunnan Province; soon after, Guanxi, which contains many routes between China and Vietnam, became a point of interest for the illegal drug transport route. notes that in 2010, 2011 and 2012, police in Guangxi seized over 800 kilograms of heroin and (and 70 kilograms in 2013). Border countries and cities usually serve as a stopover for drugs hailing from South-East Asia, which are eventually sold in China. To exacerbate the problem an increasing number of synthetic drugs are being manufactured in China, with over 90 kilograms of methamphetamine and ketamine seized this year. Border counties in particular are vulnerable to the serious problems caused by addiction, which is evidencing a need for China and Vietnam to work closely on the exchange of information, joint investigation, sharing of evidence, etc.


Synthetic Drugs Gaining Popularity in Chinese Cities


In 1989, the number of registered drug users in China stood at around 70,000; in current days, this number has skyrocketed to 2 million, though the drugs control bureau in China claims that the real number of users is probably closer to 10 million. The most oft-used drug is heroin, though the popularity of synthetically manufactured drugs is increasing exponentially. China’s Narcotics Control Commission notes that while in 2005, some 7 per cent of new registered drug addicts consumed synthetic drugs, by 2013, the number of users had surged to 40 per cent. China, it seems, is experiencing a boom in terms of clandestine drug manufacture, owing in no small part to Internet sales. Many manufacturers take advantage of the blurred line between legal and illegal drugs; ketamine, for instance, is an anaesthetic, yet it is currently being used as a party drug famed for inducing dream-like hallucinations. There are various obstacles to curbing the spread of synthetic drugs; one is the creativity and quick response of manufacturers, who easily find flaws in the legislation – when one drug is banned, they immediately begin manufacturing another drug made with similar ingredients and providing the same type of ‘high’. Hundreds of laboratories situated closed to Chinese ports then send off orders for these ‘legal’ drugs to dealers in the US and Europe. Recently, Home Office minister, Norman Baker, claimed, “We’re in a race against the chemists of new substances being produced almost on a weekly basis in places like China and India. They… are inaccurately and unhelpfully called legal highs – some of them are actually illegal. They are certainly not necessarily safe and the word legal implies that they are safe… last year I think it was 68 people died, according to coroners reports, from the ingestion of these substances.”


Synthetic Drugs and Addiction


Methamphetamine, ecstasy and ketamine are three drugs which are highly demanded demand by foreign consumers and by youths in China alike. Methamphetamine, taken in crystalline and pill format, is the second most used illegal drug in China. Ketamine, meanwhile, is the new ‘in’ hallucinogenic party drug, and is often snorted, injected, smoked or blended into drinks. The above-mentioned drugs are not only highly addictive and one of the main causes of rehabilitation treatment for drug dependence; they often cause permanent damage to the brain. A study undertaken last year, for instance, used magnetic resonance imaging to reveal brain damage in ketamine addicts. Scientists found lesions in the brains of those who had consumed ketamine for between two and four years. Ketamine poses both short- and long-term risks. Short-term effects include high blood pressure and potentially fatal respiratory events. Moreover, doses are difficult to regulate, which can result in unwitting overdose. Metamphetamine, meanwhile, increases the risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Like ecstasy, this drug can also cause long-term brain damage and organ failure.


Recommendations for China by Yong-an Zhang


Yong-an Zhang, Professor and Director at Shanghai University’s David F. Musto Center for Drug Policies, notes that if current trends continue, synthetic drugs will be the primary choice of drug in upcoming years. The Professor recently made various recommendations to control drug smuggling and abuse. These include:


The government should work alongside other nations closely, to monitor and prevent the rise of new psychoactive substances.


Joint law enforcement efforts should be made to strengthen Asia’s response to the growing problem of synthetic drug manufacture.


China should help set up an international database to trace all precursor chemicals to the various types of amphetamine-type stimulants.


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Frontiers Journal, Brain damages in ketamine addicts as revealed by magnetic resonance imaging, accessed August, 2014., Asia’s ATS Epidemic: The Challenges for China, accessed August, 2014.

A Barr et al, The need for speed: an update on methamphetamine addiction. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. 2006. 31(5):301-13., The Breakdown, accessed August, 2014.

Whole 9, Five reasons to go Seasonal, accessed August, 2014.

Drug Free, The Truth About Ecstasy, accessed August, 2014.



Contributed by Emma Jones

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