SHANGHAI: Drug addicts in the city are getting younger, figures from the local drug agency have revealed.
According to Zhou Weihang, director of the Shanghai anti-drug office, at the end of September, more than 50 percent of the city's 32,000 registered drug users were under 35. In 2006, the figure was 48 percent.
The highest growth has been in rural areas, as dealers try to avoid detection, Zhou said.
"In the past, most drug raids were focused on downtown areas," he said.
Zhou said many "new" drugs, like ice, ketamine and ecstasy, appeal more to young people and that is why there are now more users aged under 35.
In the first nine months of this year, 68 percent of the 248 kg of drugs confiscated were new drugs.
"This was the first time we had seized more new drugs than traditional ones, such as heroin," Zhou said.
"In addition, more than 5,000 of the addicts registered in the first nine months of the year used new drugs - most of them ice, of which we seized more than 170 kg in the first nine months," he said.
Zhou said one of the reasons new drugs are so appealing to young people is because they are readily available in entertainment venues.
They also claim to be able to relieve people of the stresses and strains of city life.
"But they are just as harmful and addictive as any other drug," he said.
Zhou highlighted the case of a 23-year-old surnamed Wang who became paranoid after taking a drug known as magu, a methamphetamine similar to ice. Convinced someone was trying to murder him he attacked and killed his own grandmother.
Zhou said the city government was stepping up its efforts to combat drugs, especially the new ones.
In the first six months of the year, raids led to the closure of two entertainment venues, while 29 others had their operations suspended.
And, as of the end of September, 5,791 people had been arrested for trading and using new drugs, he said.
In addition, the anti-drug office has introduced harsher punishments for those found using or selling drugs.
Zhou said entertainment venues now face a minimum three-month suspension of operations for allowing drugs to be sold on their premises.
Also, anyone caught selling or using drugs will face 15 days' detention, while repeat offenders will be forced to take a three-month rehabilitation program.
Those who continue to offend even after rehabilitation will be forced to undergo an education-through-labor program, as well as taking regular medical examinations, Zhou said.