Enforced detoxification: one man’s story

A powerful excerpt that just underlines why we do the work we do at INPUD. Taken from an excellent series of 7 papers published in the Lancet and presented at the World Aids Conference in Vienna in 2010. Very highly recommended reading. Will post a few more excerpts over coming days and weeks. The papers are called…

“Time to act: a call for comprehensive responses to HIV in people who use drugs Chris Beyrer, Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Michel Kazatchkine, Michel Sidibe, Steff anie A Strathdee”

(Panel 3): Punishment is not medical treatment

“My name is Li Wei* and I am a citizen of China. I was addicted to heroin for several years before being sent to an involuntary treatment centre in my country. Since the day I was sent into the involuntary detoxifi cation centre, I was never given any medicine to relieve my stress, not even a sleeping pill. I passed through the initial physical detoxifi cation phase without water or food, as I was unable to swallow and the centre staff gave me no food or medicine that might help or provide nutrition. As soon as I was considered ‘detoxified’, the warden hurriedly arranged for me to labour at a locked factory.

I worked 16 hours a day, overstretched, and if I failed to complete my workload, I would be treated with violent beatings and all kinds of corporal punishment. Sometimes I would be ordered to kneel down, and I would be violently kicked in the chest until they were tired of kicking me. Sometimes in the dead of winter I would be told to strip naked and stand under a cold water tap, and to make it worse, two people would stand on either side blowing me with fans as the water poured over me. This sort of punishment would go on for at least a half hour at a time.

Under such conditions, I stuck it out to the end of the 1-year period of involuntary detoxifi cation. By the time I walked out of the centre, my overall bodily health had fallen to an absurd low because of the long-term hard labour I endured. I could only walk about 100 metres, and then I had to stop and rest.

Ordinarily after recovering the body should be far better than the past, but when I got out people were asking me if my drug addiction had worsened—I looked like a terminally ill patient, not somebody who had just completed his drug rehabilitation.

It is dubbed ‘rehabilitation through labour’ but I never felt that I was rehabilitating; the only thing I felt was punishment, and I believe everyone else there felt the same. Since drug addiction is a disease, it should be given medical treatment.

Yet if what I was given is medical treatment, I’d rather stay away from it forever.

Speaking from my personal experience, I think education and employment opportunities can help facilitate the rehabilitation of addicted individuals. But forced hard labour is not rehabilitation. If hard labour and forced labour are used, drug users will always react to detoxifi cation with fear and avoidance. If methadone can be brought into involuntary detoxification centres, I think the positive eff ect will be unexpectedly large.

I’d like to end with a call on my community friends: if you agree with me, please also speak out your feelings and needs, for your own sake, as well as for improving the conditions of all community members under such ’treatment’.”


About Erin

Freelance writer and journalist for the global drug user press
This entry was posted in Regional Information, Regional News & Info, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Enforced detoxification: one man’s story

  1. Pingback: INPUD News on the Move | Inpud's International Diaries

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