China Has Pain Pill Addicts Too, But No One’s Counting Them

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SHANGHAI (AP) — Officially, China doesn’t have an opioid problem like the United States. But largely out of sight of the government, addicts exist.

A person holds up a white pill to the camera. The person hides their fade in shame that the pills are addictive.
In this March 28, 2019, photo, Yin Hao, who also goes by Yin Qiang, holds a Tylox pill while sitting in a tea house in Xi’an, northwestern China’s Shaanxi Province. Officially, pain pill abuse is an American problem, not a Chinese one. But people in China have fallen into opioid abuse the same way many Americans did, through a doctor’s prescription. And despite China’s strict regulations, online trafficking networks, which facilitated the spread of opioids in the U.S., also exist in China. (AP Photo | Mark Schiefelbein)

A government survey taken in 2016 shows just 11,132 cases of medical drug abuse were reported in a population of nearly 1.4 billion. But even the Chinese government admits it doesn’t know the full scope of opioid addiction in the country.

The government’s count of addicts is voluntary and drawn from a small sample of institutions including law enforcement, drug rehabilitation centers and some hospitals. One government agency acknowledged that the lack of data limits its ability to get an accurate count adding: “the nature of medical drug abuse in the population cannot be confirmed.”

Read more: “This drug is addictive,” Wu said. “One hundred percent addictive… Do you know how f—— much I don’t want to take drugs?” he said. “My mouth says don’t take it, but my body is more honest and figures out a way to get it.”