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Open Access Case study

Yulu Shequ - a unique rehabilitation program for illicit drug users in Kaiyuan in southwest China

Qinqin Liu1 and Christian A Gericke2*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

2 Professor of Public Health and Deputy Director, Peninsula CLAHRC, National Institute for Health Research, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, Plymouth, UK

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Harm Reduction Journal 2011, 8:26  doi:10.1186/1477-7517-8-26

Published: 20 September 2011

Abstract

Introduction

In China, illicit drug use and addiction have been rapidly increasing over the last two decades. Traditional compulsory rehabilitation models in China are widely considered ineffective. Recently, a new model of drug user rehabilitation called the 'Yulu Shequ Program' has gained a national reputation for successful rehabilitation in the city of Kaiyuan in southwest China. The aim of this study was to describe this program to the international public and to assess the program's effectiveness in terms of relapse rates and costs to participants and public payers.

Case description

The Yulu Shequ program provides up to one hundred participants at any point in time with the opportunity to live and work in a purpose-built, drug-free community after completing compulsory rehabilitation. The length of stay is not limited. Community members receive medical and psychological treatment and have the option to participate in social activities and highly valued job skills training. The program has very strict policies to prevent illicit drugs entering the community.

Evaluation

The evaluation was carried out through 1) a review of literature, official documents and websites in Chinese language describing the program and 2) an on-site visit and conduct of semi-structured interviews with key staff members of the Yulu Shequ program. The relapse rate in 2007 was 60% compared to 96% in the compulsory program. Annual costs to public payers of CNY4800 (US$700) were largely offset by income earned through on-site labour by participants totalling CNY4600 (US$670).

Conclusions

The Yulu Shequ program is an interesting model for drug rehabilitation that could lead the way for a new Chinese national policy away from compulsory rehabilitation towards a more collaborative and effective approach. Caution is needed when interpreting relapse rates as Yulu Shequ participants need to have completed compulsory rehabilitation before entering the program. A more comprehensive evaluation of this program would be desirable before implementation in other parts of China or in other countries facing similar problems.