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Addicts find path back to normal life can be tough

By Zha Minjie (Shanghai Daily)

08:23, June 26, 2012

Many of them learn to control themselves while doing the hard work of drug rehabilitation.

But still, some say, the odds seem to be against them.

"Getting rid of the drugs is one thing, and returning back to the society is quite another," said Ye Xiong, who has now a hotline helping drug users with psychological issues.

Ye was a drug addict for 10 years. She knows how hard it is to get past it.

"I received a phone call from an ex-drug user, telling me he had been turned down eight times in seeking jobs," Ye said.

A normal person could hardly live with that, she said.

Discriminated against and lacking longer-term public care, the city's drug users often see their chances of finding jobs and returning to a normal life shattered.

Facing harsh conditions, they struggle with the tendency to get lost in the addicted world again, even after their recovery from rehabilitation.

Police and anti-drug workers estimate that Shanghai now has more than 34,000 active drug abusers. In total there are 55,686 people registered as drug addicts, including those recovering from drug use, according to the government.

Drug enforcement workers and those in groups that help addicts hope that their efforts are not in vain.

Xu Haihui, with Shanghai Ziqiang Social Services, said the government provides partial subsidies to companies willing to hire people with a history of drug abuse.

The service helps provide psychological counseling to drug abusers who come out of compulsory rehabilitation centers.

"But we find that in many cases they were just cut off soon after the probationary period," said Xu, saying that the companies often fired them.

Often lacking skills and education, the addicts can become bitter after going through the harshness of treatment in the rehabilitation centers.

Social workers and volunteers, many of whom are used to be drug addicts, said it's important that the users have the "companion education" of consistent talks and psychological counseling usually lasting three years.

Among the 24 addicts the Ziqiang group is helping ,only two picked up drugs again, Xu wrote in a recent report.

What the report does not indicate is how many may end up depending on government subsidies for a minimum standard of living in the near future.

"Solving the drug problem depends on the motivation of society as a whole," said Su Zhiliang, a professor with Shanghai Normal University, author of a book, "China's Drug History."

"Still we need a long and enduring time to prepare," added Su, pointing to the lax anti-drug education that is given to younger generations.

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