Estimates of the national trend of drugs use during 2000–2030 in China: A population-based mathematical model

Shu Su, Christopher Kincaid Fairley, Limin Mao, Nicholas A. Medland, Jun Jing, Feng Cheng, Lei Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The use of synthetic drugs has exceeded heroin to become a major public health concern in China. We aimed to estimate the trend of heroin-only, synthetic drug-only and poly-drug (heroin and synthetic drug) use during 2000–2030 period in China using existing data. Methods: We used data from the Annual Report on Drug Control in China and peer-reviewed publications. We constructed a mathematical model to estimate the drug use trend based on Monte Carlo simulations. Results: The best calibrated model estimated that the number of drug users would increase from 0.86 million to 3,120,059 (95% CI 2,669,214-3,570,904) during 2000–2030 period. The proportion of heroin-only users among the total drug users will decrease from 96.8% (95% CI, 96.6–97.1%) in 2000 to 36.9% (30.1–40.8%) in 2030, while the proportion of synthetic drug-only users will increase from 1.1% (0.9–1.3%) in 2000 to 57.7% (51.7–65.6%) in 2030. In contrast, the proportion of poly-drug users shared an increasing trend during 2000–2016 (from 2.1% (1.5–2.8%) to 15.1 (13.8–17.1%)) but declined to 5.5% (3.4–7.2%) in 2030. Estimated 46,370 (41,634-51,106) heroin-only users and 3767 (3481–4053) synthetic drug only users initiated poly-drug use in 2000. We observed a cross-over in 2012 where more synthetic drug-only users were initiating heroin use than heroin-only users initiating synthetic drug use. There will be estimated 2,094,052 (1,819,830–2,368,274) synthetic drug-only users and poly-drug users 211,407 (177,150–245,664) in 2030. Conclusions: Synthetic drug use will become dominant in drug users in China, but poly-drug use of both heroin and synthetic drugs will remain substantial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-71
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • China
  • Heroin
  • Monte Carlo simulation
  • Poly-drug users
  • Synthetic drug

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