China Claims Drug Abuse Costs Them $81 Billion Annually

By McCarton Ackerman 06/25/15

China has around 14 million drug users.

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Despite intense crackdowns on both drug users and dealers throughout China, a new report from Chinese officials claims that drug abuse costs the country $80.5 billion (500 billion yuan) annually.

Liu Yuejin, assistant minister of public security, stated in a news conference that 49,000 people died last year from overdose deaths. There are about 14 million drug users throughout China, including 1.2 million users of methamphetamine at the end of 2014. The number of meth users is a 41% jump from just 12 months earlier.

A separate annual report on the country’s drug crisis also noted that the number of synthetic drug users surpassed heroin users for the first time last year. China’s Narcotics Control Commission noted that the number of synthetic drug users is growing by 36% each year.

Yuejin stated that China is now working more intensely with law enforcement officials in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Myanmar to halt heroin and methamphetamine smuggling into the country. The two main overseas drug sources for China include Southeast Asia’s “Golden Triangle,” where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos meet, and South Asia's "Golden Crescent," which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Government officials unveiled their plans last year for a mass crackdown on drugs, leading to the arrest of 60,500 suspects and the confiscation of 11 metric tons of drugs. Authorities have also attempted to deter substance abuse by making an example out of several high-profile celebrities. Jaycee Chan, a movie star in China and the son of legendary actor Jackie Chan, spent six months behind bars for drug possession and reportedly offering his home as a “shelter” for others to do drugs.

But despite their draconian efforts, drug use continues to be a major problem throughout the country. The country’s Narcotics Control Commission stated in the report last year that illegal drugs are an $82 billion business throughout China. In addition to meth, ketamine, and ecstasy are also among the most popular drugs in China. Usage of them has continued to climb as the country’s urban class continues to have greater disposable income.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.