Mu­sic re­hab

The au­thor­i­ties in Beijing are us­ing mu­si­cal ther­apy to help re­ha­bil­i­tate ad­dicts in the cap­i­tal. Zhang Yi re­ports.

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Beijing’s Com­pul­sory Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter uses mu­sic ther­apy to help peo­ple sen­tenced for drug use to re­lease neg­a­tive feel­ings and over­come ad­dic­tions. >

Last month, Beijing played host to a con­cert that was lit­er­ally un­miss­able, both for the per­form­ers and the au­di­ence, who are all drug ad­dicts re­sid­ing at the Com­pul­sory Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter in the cap­i­tal. The show was part of ef­forts to shift the em­pha­sis of ad­dic­tion treat­ment from pun­ish­ment to re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“I was dev­as­tated when I was sent here in Septem­ber to start a min­i­mum six-month sen­tence. I thought it was bad luck that I was spot­ted at a toll booth in Beijing (when un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs), and I was afraid of the re­hab process. But now, the ac­cess to mu­sic has helped me to calm down and also im­proved my abil­ity to man­age my emo­tions. The de­sire for drugs has grad­u­ally de­clined as well,” said pi­anist Wang Feng (not his real name), a for­mer metham­phetamine ad­dict.

Cui Xin­hua, the head of the cen­ter, said most of the ad­dicts sent to the fa­cil­ity have dif­fi­culty con­trol­ling their emo­tions or find­ing ways to vent neg­a­tive feel­ings — fac­tors that led them to re­sort to drugs in the hope of avoid­ing trou­bling is­sues or to in­duce a false feel­ing of seren­ity.

“Mu­si­cal ther­apy was in­tro­duced in Au­gust last year to pro­vide an out­let for the ad­dicts — a way of ex­press­ing their thoughts and emo­tions. It gives them the op­por­tu­nity to kick the habit of us­ing drugs to block out re­al­ity. Some have been en­cour­aged to write songs about their prob­lems,” he said.

Re­grets

Wang Feng said he re­gret­ted be­com­ing an ad­dict: “No one should ever touch drugs. I didn’t feel high the first time I tasted a drink con­tain­ing ‘ice’ (a street name for metham­phetamine) at a night club, but there was some­thing in it that pushed me to try it a sec­ond time (when the drug did have an ef­fect). I couldn’t help look­ing for the same sort of feel­ing when I tried to shake off a bad mood a few days later. Things quickly got out of hand af­ter I tried ice a sec­ond time.”

The 34-year-old for­mer em­ployee of a fi­nan­cial com­pany in Tian­jin, a mu­nic­i­pal­ity in North China, said that over the past two years he had re­peat­edly turned to drugs when he felt frus­trated or de­pressed, usu­ally af­ter con­flicts at work.

“I have writ­ten a song ded­i­cated to my mom in the hope of re­pay­ing her un­fail­ing love for me. Af­ter she learned that I was us­ing il­le­gal drugs, she said she would not walk away from me, even if it cost the whole world to save me. Her words made me think about the mean­ing of my life and my re­spon­si­bil­ity to my family,” he said.

Like Wang, the three other mem­bers of the res­i­dents’ band are mu­si­cal novices who learned to play sim­ple per­cus­sion in­stru­ments such as tam­bourines and mara­cas dur­ing their time in the cen­ter.

Li Xing­miao, a po­lice of­fi­cer who played elec­tronic drums with the res­i­dents at the con­cert, said per­form­ing with peo­ple who are iso­lated from so­ci­ety strength­ens com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween them and helps the of­fi­cers to un­der­stand the res­i­dents’ feel­ings and be­hav­iors.

Mu­si­cal ther­apy is just one of a num­ber of ini­tia­tives de­signed to bring psy­cho­log­i­cal treat­ment into the cen­ter’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gram.

“I visit the re­hab cen­ter once a week and ar­range for the res­i­dents to watch movies I choose. I usu­ally pick spe­cific char­ac­ters from the movies and ex­plain to the res­i­dents how peo­ple can bet­ter man­age their emo­tions when they are in a predica­ment,” said Shao Ran, a psy­cho­log­i­cal ther­a­pist who works for Yingchen Ed­u­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy Co.

“The res­i­dents grad­u­ally be­gan to dis­cuss the per­son­al­i­ties of the char­ac­ters in the movies. It’s help­ful be­cause they have started to re­al­ize that no one can have a per­fect life and every­body has to learn to deal with un­pleas­ant things oc­ca­sion­ally,” Shao said.

In ad­di­tion to the mu­sic and movie work­shops, a ther­a­peu­tic com­mu­nity-based ap­proach that was in­tro­duced a few years ago has be­come an ef­fec­tive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion tool. A cou­ple of times a week, the res­i­dents are or­ga­nized into groups to dis­cuss their life sto­ries and share their ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gram.

I have writ­ten a song ded­i­cated to my mom in the hope of re­pay­ing her un­fail­ing love for me.” Wang Feng, mu­sic ther­apy par­tic­i­pant

New dan­gers

Duan Jin­fang, a po­lice of­fi­cer at the cen­ter, said 95 per­cent of the 200-plus ad­dicts in the fa­cil­ity are hooked on drugs that have been in­tro­duced rel­a­tively re­cently, such as metham­phetamine, and are known as “new psy­choac­tive sub­stances”, or NPS.

“Un­like tra­di­tional drugs, such as heroin, which pro­duce ob­vi­ous phys­i­cal symp­toms of ad­dic­tion, these new types of drugs bring about psy­cho­log­i­cal trig­gers that cause ad­dic­tive crav­ings,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to Duan, a large num­ber of the cen­ter’s res­i­dents were ei­ther raised in un­fa­vor­able cir­cum­stances or have ex­pe­ri­enced hard times. As a re­sult, they were psy­cho­log­i­cally in­ca­pable of say­ing no when ex­posed to psy­choac­tive sub­stances.

Dur­ing her decade at the cen­ter, Duan has met sev­eral res­i­dents who fell vic­tim to ap­par­ently in­nocu­ous sub­stances such as “cof­fee”, or were urged to try a new brand of “chew­ing gum”, with­out be­ing aware that the prod­ucts had been laced with highly ad­dic­tive nar­cotics.

In Au­gust, the Beijing Mu­nic­i­pal Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Bureau dis­cov­ered a new threat, and de­tained 19 peo­ple for us­ing and sell­ing “stamps”, small squares of per­fo­rated blot­ting pa­per sim­i­lar to sheets of stamps that had been smeared with Ly­ser­gic Acid Di­ethy­lamide, a po­tent psych- edelic bet­ter known as LSD.

The drugs were dis­trib­uted and sold via a courier ser­vice by two em­ploy­ees of a Beijing night­club who were supplied by a for­eign na­tional.

Un­like China’s “sec­ond gen­er­a­tion” drugs, such as metham­phetamine, “third gen­er­a­tion” nar­cotics such as “stamps” and “cof­fee pow­der” are of­ten hid­den in food and snacks, which makes them easy to mar­ket and de­liver via courier ser­vices.

Legal loop­holes

The prob­lems posed by the use of NPS have been ex­ac­er­bated be­cause some of the sub­stances used in the newly syn­the­sized drugs are not classed as il­le­gal un­der China’s nar­cotics laws.

Al­though codeine was in­cluded in the China Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s list of con­trolled sub­stances last year, it took nearly a decade for the ad­min­is­tra­tion to make the move be­cause the drug was widely used to treat coughs and was avail­able with­out pre­scrip­tion. That was be­fore codeine was dis­cov­ered to be a harm­ful psy­choac­tive sub­stance when con­sumed in large doses, such as bot­tles of cough syrup.

Ex­perts say that most users fail to un­der­stand how se­vere their de­pen­dence on NPS will be­come when they first be­gin to use them. Many feel that they can quit at any time, but it is al­ways too late for them to re­al­ize that their hopes are wish­ful think­ing.

Un­der the Anti-drug Law of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, which came into force in 2007, any­one caught us­ing il­le­gal drugs a sec­ond time must sub­mit to the two-year iso­la­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion process, which causes mis­ery for them and their fam­i­lies.

In Beijing, re­peat of­fend­ers have to stay at the Com­pul­sory Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter for a min­i­mum of six months’ strict iso­la­tion be­fore be­ing sent to a sep­a­rate fa­cil­ity for fol­low-up treat­ment.

“Pre­ven­tion is al­ways bet­ter than cure. Pub­lic aware­ness of the dis­as­trous ef­fects of drugs should be raised, and pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures should be strength­ened to prevent these new types of drugs from com­ing onto the mar­ket,” Duan said.

Con­tact the writer at zhang_yi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHO­TOS BY ZOU HONG/CHINA DAILY

Res­i­dents re­hearse for a con­cert in front of mem­bers of the pub­lic at the Com­pul­sory Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter in Beijing.

A mem­ber of staff talks vis­i­tors through the cen­ter’s ex­hi­bi­tion on drug con­trol.

A med­i­cal pro­fes­sional in a dor­mi­tary for res­i­dents at the cen­ter.

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