Mentorship for-China's Heroin Treatment Complex: Addiction and a New Era of Government-Citizen Relations

Investigator: Vincanne Adams, PhD
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Location(s): China


Doctoral student Nicholas A Bartlett, under the guidance of Dr. Vincanne Adams (University of California, San Francisco), will undertake research on cross-cultural variation in how substance addiction is understood and treated. The research will be carried out in China where he will focus on "community drug treatment," a new designation for a range of state-sanctioned practices attempting to rehabilitate heroin users. Interventions grouped under this label, including a national methadone substitution program, psycho-social support, and other services, often replace labor camp and compulsory detoxification as preferred forms of state treatment. Ethnographic attention to interactions between patients and providers in these settings allows an examination of addiction as a Chinese social problem and marker of particular challenges of post-reform life, a contested condition produced through the treatment system, and a historically-situated defining characteristic for a sub-set of a generation born around the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Research will be carried out in two cities, Beijing and a small prefecture in the Southwest in China, where different government ministries oversee a network of institutions charged with providing care for the country's one million registered drug users. The author will rely on ethnographic fieldwork and targeted qualitative interviews with treatment providers, family members, government cadres, and individuals in recovery. He will work with a number of local organizations, including government public health providers, anti-drug volunteers, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to explore the implementation of this new designation of treatment.

This study's attention to a Chinese understanding of addiction through shifting treatment practices will contribute to social science theory about the nature of the interaction between the state and its citizens in a rapidly shifting post-socialist context.