SHANGHAI - More people younger than 35 years old, including white-collar workers and university students, have been taking synthetic drugs in Shanghai, according to the latest statistics from the Shanghai Narcotics Control Commission.
The annually released figures on the narcotics situation in the city showed that 321 more people were found using drugs in the first quarter of this year, more than 90 percent of whom used synthetic drugs.
In the first quarter, there were 31,075 people taking illegal drugs in Shanghai, 46 percent of whom were younger than 35.
According to the report, more than 100,000 people, 80 percent of whom were male, were found to be taking synthetic drugs in China, an average annual growth of 41.3 percent over the past decade.
"The majority of people thought synthetic drugs such as ice, ketamine and ecstasy were not addictive and not as harmful as traditional drugs," said Zheng Wei, deputy director of Shanghai Narcotics Control Commission.
However, synthetic drugs probably are more harmful to human beings as they directly attack the central nervous system, damage to which is irreversible.
"Synthetic drugs promote the release of neurotransmitters to produce pathological excitement, leading to massive destruction of nerve cells causing neurological disorders," said Zhang Yong'an, executive director of the international drug policy research center of Shanghai University.
He added that users of synthetic drugs develop mental disorders, can be manic and depressive and behave violently. This not only damages their health but also threatens public security.
Synthetic drugs, also called "club" or "party" drugs, are normally available in entertainment venues such as nightclubs that are usually crowded with young people.
"We've noticed that more people younger than 30, even teenagers, were arrested for taking synthetic drugs in the past five years," said Feng Jianguo, a social worker from the government-funded Council of Shanghai Ziqiang Social Services.
"Some young white-collar workers who are under high pressure at work may turn to synthetic drugs to try to reduce their stresses and bring excitement to their lives," said Zheng.
Social workers normally try to educate users of synthetic drugs about the dangers they pose to prevent them from continuing to take the drugs.
Feng added that drug users need more mental and physical support from trained social workers and family members with no discrimination.
Synthetic drugs are different from traditional drugs like heroin, as they are made from easily accessible chemicals and are cheap and quick to make.
"As most of the chemical reagents are available in the market, the risk of people producing synthetic drugs becomes higher and it's harder for legislators to stop the practice," said Zhang.
The Shanghai Narcotics Control Commission also carried out activities especially designed to inform people between 14 and 21 years old about the dangers of drugs.
"We adopt new methods such as online videos, animated cartoons and online quizzes for the young generation to participate in," said Zheng.
China Daily 15th June 2011