While authorities are finding it difficult to prevent people arrested for drug-related crimes from returning to substance abuse, one nonprofit organization has been successful in helping those who once relied on narcotics such as amphetamines.
The Asia-Pacific Addiction Research Institute in Taito Ward, Tokyo, is the first NPO in Japan to deal with the rehabilitation of people released on bail after being arrested on suspicion of drug abuse.
Officials say drug-related crimes show no signs of letting up. The number of people caught in amphetamine crackdowns carried out by narcotics agents of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare last year totaled about 18,000.
Drugs are often purchased from dealers via cell phones. The Internet has also reportedly expanded avenues of drug availability.
The street value of a gram of amphetamine is estimated at about 60,000 yen.
Authorities confiscated some 400 kg of amphetamines last year, compared with nearly two tons seized in 1999 and about one ton in 2000, although the volume of marijuana seized last year amounted to a record 900 kg.
“My friend gave me a drug called ‘S’ but I did not know it was an amphetamine until two months after I started taking it,” said a 24-year-old man who used to work for a major corporation in Tokyo.
He said he first took speed to keep him awake, but after three months he was consuming it every three to four hours.
“I was not doing well in my work. . . . I had already become unable to make any level-headed decisions, including that I should stop taking amphetamines,” said the man, who asked not to be identified.
He was arrested in November and contacted APARI while he was out on bail. Established in February 2000, APARI last July began offering a drug rehabilitation program to defendants out on bail for drug offenses.
Officials say a high percentage of offenders commit drug-related crimes again, pointing out that about 50 percent of people arrested on suspicion of drug abuse in 2000 were repeaters.
In the absence of official steps to prevent a recurrence of drug abuse, many of those on parole or released from prison go back to lives in which they are close to drugs, analysts say.
APARI provides a rehabilitation program for two weeks immediately after users are freed on bail, and another week just prior to a court decision. They spend the period in the institute’s center in Fujioka, Gunma Prefecture.
They join others at the center in attending meetings to gain awareness of the dangers of drugs.
The four people who make up the center’s staff have all overcome drug habits of their own.
Twelve people have so far completed the program, and all have subsequently stayed off drugs, including the former Tokyo corporate employee who used speed. He is now studying at a university and pursuing new goals.
“I was arrested five months after I started (taking amphetamines),” he said, adding that the major factor that helped him overcome his habit was meeting people at APARI who were going through the same agony as he was and who were earnestly trying to rehabilitate themselves.
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