Former Drug Smuggling Elephants Kick Opium Habit

By Bryan Le 07/31/14

Chinese Triads had kept the elephants loyal by hooking them on opium-laced bananas, but sanctuary workers cured them with methadone.


After an extensive stay in a Chinese rehab, four Indian elephants have gotten themselves clean of opium addiction after being given a year-long methadone course.

The elephants were hooked on the stuff in the first place after Triad heroin smugglers fed them opium-laced bananas to keep them loyal and docile. In their addicted state, the elephants hauled heroin between China and Myanmar with less fuss, obeying in hopes of getting one more laced banana.

After the drug running gangsters were caught, the elephants were delivered to a sanctuary, where they became restless and aggressive without their fix. The trainers had never tried to cure an elephant of addiction before, so they opted to wean the elephants off with methadone like humans.

"The elephants need at least five times more methadone than a human being would need at the start, and then we slowly reduced that until they no longer needed it," said elephant breeder Chen Jiming. "It is every bit as hard for the elephants to go through the cold turkey regime as it is for humans."

Fortunately, the treatment worked and the recovering elephants have since been released back into the wild.

"It has been a long battle but we can safely say that they are now reintegrated into elephant society and in some cases even have families of their own," Chen said.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter