China's Drug Policy

China's Drug Policy

Despite the government’s effort in dealing with drug consumption, the total number of addicts has been increasing. In 2007, the government passed the Anti-Drug Law that decriminalised drug consumption, signalling  a new focus on treatment and prevention. China has four drug treatment settings for users: voluntary treatment, community-based treatment, compulsory isolated treatment and community-based rehabilitation. Treatments can be up to 9 years for voluntary treatment, and up to 3 years for community-based or  compulsory isolated treatment and community-based rehabilitation. 

To tackle the supply side, China considers drug trafficking a criminal offence, with the maximum penalty being death. Border patrols and customs inspections are also conducted to stop traffickers from entering the country. This is further supported by information sharing and joint investigations between province and state drug enforcement officers.


Although drug use is no longer considered a criminal offence, it is still considered an administrative offence. The stigma surrounding drug use thus lingers, deterring users from seeking treatment. For example, a drug user will have their drug use history compulsorily recorded on their national identity card and the local police station will receive a notification whenever the card is used.   

Furthermore, drug users are banned from obtaining or renewing their driver’s licence. In 2013, the Ministry of Public Security revoked more than 10,000 driver’s licences and rejected over 4,000 new applications from individuals deemed to be drug users. These restrictions deter people from accessing drug treatment programs.

On the production side, gaps in regulatory design and the division of responsibility between provincial and central governments paired with lack of oversight means drug producers can continue to publicly sell synthetic drugs online simply by adjusting the chemical composition to avoid being banned.

Despite this, China’s actions have seen some success, with 417 manufacturing sites uncovered last year. Furthermore, the Chinese government has increased its efficiency through international collaboration. For instance, under a four-year action plan (2019-2022), China  has agreed to conduct joint operations with Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.


Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

[1]Patrick, T. (2017). Drug dependence treatment in China: A policy analysis. International Drug Policy Consortium. Retrieved from

[2] Sheldon, Z., C, Ko-lin. (2016). A people’s war: China’s struggle to contain its illicit drug problem. Brookings. Retrieved from

[3] Agence, F. (2017). China’s synthetic drug problem growing, government says. South Morning China Post. Retrieved from