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Comparison of drug abuse in Germany and China

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Drug abuse has a long, but also different history in Germany and China. The Opium War largely influenced the history of China in 19th century; however, China was once recognized as a drug-free nation for 3 decades from the 1950s to the 1980s. Drug abuse has spread quickly since re-emerging as a national problem in China in the late 1980s. The number of registered drug abusers increased from 70 000 in 1990 to more than 1 million by the end of 2005. In past decades, illicit drug trafficking and production have swept most provinces in China, and drug abuse has caused many problems for both abusers and the community. One major drug-related problem is the spread of HIV, which has caused major social and economic damage in China. Germany, the largest developed European country, also faces the drug and addiction problem. Germany has about 150 000 heroin addicts, for whom HIV/AIDS has become a serious threat since the mid 1980s. To control the drug problem, the German Government adopted the “Action Plan on Drugs and Addiction” in 2003; the China Central Government approved a similar regulation in the antidrug campaign in 2005. Germany has experience in reducing drug-related harm. The methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) program has run for more than 20 years and the public has become more tolerant of addicts. In 2003, China began the MMT program for controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS. It is necessary for China to learn from developed countries to acquire success in its antidrug campaign. In this review, we will go over the differences and similarities in drug abuse between Germany and China. The differences are related to history, population and economics, drug policy context, drug laws, HIV/hepatitis C virus infection, the MMT program and so on. These 2 nations have drug abuse problems with different histories and currently use different approaches to handle illicit drug marketing and use. The legal penalties for illicit drug offences reflect the social differences of these 2 nations with respect to the seriousness of particular types of crimes. The characteristics of the MMT program may also influence patterns of drug abuse in these 2 nations and China should improve the MMT program based on the successful model in Europe, the USA, and Australia. We recommend more dialogue and collaboration between Germany and China.

Keywords: China; Germany; HIV/AIDS; comparison; drug abuse; harm reduction; heroin; methadone maintenance treatment

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Office of the Federal Drug Commissioner, Federal Ministry of Health, Berlin 10117, Germany 2: Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics Branch, Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA 3: National Institute on Drug Dependence, Peking University, Beijing 100083, China

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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