Saturday, May 12, 2012

The ethics of drug addiction research in China

Reports about what goes on in 'drug rehabilitation centers' in China have been dribbling into the media for some time now. Arrest for illegal drug use in China can lead to compulsory treatment (for a minimum of 2 years) at detention centers that, according to a New York Times piece in 2010, function as de facto penal colonies where inmates are fed substandard food and denied basic medical care. The detentions are enforced by police, where the drug user has no opportunity to have a trial, face a judge or raise an appeal. When a drug user leaves detention, the problems do not end there: their having been arrested for drug use is noted on their national identification card, making future employment difficult and leaving them vulnerable to frequent and humiliating searches by police. This is not a rare phenomenon: according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS, 2010), half a million people are confined in drug detention centers in China at any given time. Perhaps it would be marginally better if those with drug addictions received effective treatment during thier detention, but the most reports point in the other direction: 'treatment' may come in the form of unpaid labor in chicken farms or shoe factories, or in the form of untested 'therapies' like sandbox play, art, or boxing. The 'treatment' looks like punishment, exploitation, or merely lame.  

Question: would it be ethical to conduct research with drug user detainees in such circumstances? In the abstract, those with substance abuse problems are vulnerable persons in poor health, and it would be good to have research on effective interventions to combat drug addiction. But in practice, it gets complicated. The journal Science recently published an article entitled 'A memory retrieval-extinction system to prevent drug craving and relapse'. The study was conducted at Beijing Ankang and Tiantanghe Drug Rehabilitation Centers, but these are two of the facilities that have raised concerns about human rights violations over the past years. Human Rights Watch has published a Letter to the Editor in Science that raises concerns about research being done within institutions suspected of human rights abuse. Should a new intervention be tested against the local standard of care, where there are serious doubts about the effectiveness of that care? In these circumstances, is voluntary informed consent of participants really possible? Are researchers who conduct research in these facilities complicit in the ill-treatment of drug users at the hands of Chinese authorities? 

The story is made murkier by the involvement of the US National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the study. Two of the authors on the study are from the NIDA, who apparently helped with data analysis and the writing of the article. Since they were significant enough contributors to the research to warrant authorship, should the study have also been reviewed under the (rather stringent) US regulations governing prisoner research, and if it did, would it have passed muster? It will be interesting to see how this case evolves as the facts become clearer. 

Labels: , , ,


Blogger bail bonds van nuys said...

Just to say,I am glad to read so good article in the website.Well,OK.I have to say,what a wonderful blog it is.thank you for your sharing so good articles in the website.I like it very much.It is very interesting in it.Look forward to reading so good articles in the website.
Alcohol rehab arkansas

12:16 AM  
Blogger Family Insurance said...

Family medical health insurance has been around for some years now nevertheless only in recent times that we are actually realizing how important it's to safeguard the interest of the health of our families. We by no means know what's in store for us.

Something might occur in future which might easily put you and your loved ones in distress. So, discovering an answer that turns out to be useful throughout testing occasions naturally becomes a part of the responsibility of a head of the family. It's higher to be ready now than whining in regards to the inability to take preventive measures later on. Please refer to this page for more information: FAMILY INSURANCE - HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Billy Ocean said...

Thanks for the post. It is too bad that research results are clouded and can't be depended on. Especially when it is such a serious subject. My teen struggled with drugs and alcohol. We got a help from a place called Drug Rehab for Teens. Check out their site if you are looking for help.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Billy Ocean said...

Drug Rehab for Teens

9:03 PM  
Blogger Addiction treatment oklahoma said...

Thanks for such an interesting article here. I was searching for something like that for quite a long time and at last I have found it here.

Drug rehab centers oklahoma

8:16 AM  
Blogger Black Smith said...

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your site and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your site. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

Veterinary instruments
Surgery Sets

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Its great that you write about how to Cure addiction naturally and I get more info about it on, You can check it also. I am very happy to get information which I want from your blog.


6:40 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The superb highly informative blog I’m about to share this with all my contacts.

12:48 AM  
Blogger XoXo said...

which is the best inhouse patient rehab center to admit my sister in san diego?

10:13 AM  
Blogger Jatin Sethi said...

where can i download drug addiction overcome quotes online?

1:18 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

love problem solution Aghori Baba
love problem solution molvi ji
love problem solution guruji
love problem solution Panditji

2:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Inter cast love marriage problem solution baba ji
Online Love problem solution
love problem solution baba ji

2:13 PM  
Blogger Amar Astro said...

Do you want to get your lost love but if you want to get it with black magic then call our best Indian astrology Kabir ji whose number is - +91 9024389199
visit us-
visit us-
visit us -

8:40 AM  
Blogger SEO said...


3:37 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home