IV drips for cramming high school students in China


Photos posted on China's Sina Weibo microblogging platform reportedly depict a Hubei province high school classroom where student are cramming for exams while hooked up to IV drips of amino acids. I hope the drips are equipped with a button for as-needed amphetamine boosts. From Ministry of Tofu:

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“(According to Mr. Xia, director of Office of Academic Affairs,) the state grants a 10-yuan subsidy for amino acids to each graduating senior that will participate in the gao kao (National College Entrance Exam). Any student that feels not well can go to the infirmary and take amino acids on the IV drip,” Mr. Xia explained. He said that some students had been below par recently due to the sudden weather changes in the city of Xiaogan, and the school infirmary had been packed with students. In order to spare students the trouble of running back and forth between the infirmary and the classroom and save their time, the school decided to arrange IV drip sessions right in the classroom.

"An entire class of high school students receive IV drips while cramming for exams" (Thanks, Sean Ness!)


    1. As an Asian American I find such disparagement and othering language to be hurtful and intellectually questionable. Good luck with your creative things.

      1. Almost. 
        I almost agreed with you. 
        Then I realized that SmokingHeartDesisigns’ comment is not about Asian Americans or Asians. 
        Not even about people of Chinese descent. 
        And it’s pure snark.  I guess. 
        Because having National College Entrance Exam IV drips is pretty damn creative.

        1. Creative…  I suppose we should give all those professional athletes who got/get caught using steroids a creativity medal instead.

          Obviously IV fluids are less drastic than cycling steroids, but the mentality seems very much the same.

          1. This just in: Gatorade, the new performance enhancing drug. 

            It’s not comparable to using steroids, it’s more like using one of those ice vests (http://www.arcticheatusa.com/ as an example), or back of the hand cooling pumps.  It is however a bit extreme.  

            It’d be more effective to make the students go home and rest a bit to absorb and process some of the information.  Cramming for exams isn’t the best way to learn and retain that information.

      2. while smokingheartdesigns assertion is questionable, more  research is required regarding Chinese institutions, societal norms and other cultural nuances that may be constraining this countrys ability to innovate and create. Societal norms that constrain free thinking may also constrain creativity – I don’t know but I’m looking through the literature to find out.

        1. Don’t worry, creativity comes after the standard of living improves.  It’s tough to enough while playing catch-up.  No?

  1. I’m sure that’s at least as safe as anonymous unprotected sex in Bangkok.

    1. Hilarious. Because, as we all well know, all them dirty Asian peoples carry STDs and even their doctors don´t know the first thing about hygiene.

      1. why do people on this website seem to want everything to be racist?

        anonymous unprotected sex in any large city would sound exactly the same. 

        it’s not safe because there are needles being used in a crowded classroom outside of medical environment.  


        1. anonymous unprotected sex in any large city would sound exactly the same.

          My point exactly. Yet Bangkok is the city that has to serve as the scapegoat, I wonder why that is?

        2. Well hepatitis is endemic in China, and even in the US clinicians get  sued for using dirty needles, so….

  2. I have to wonder what the deal is here. IV amino acids are apparently of interest primarily to seriously protein-deprived patients who can’t be fed by ordinary means for some reason. Even the alt-med and questionably-sensible-DIY-sports-medicine enthusiasts of the intertubes show only a few scattered sparks of chatter on the subject…

    Is the area where this is going on one that traditionally or currently has a protein-weak (presumably rice heavy but otherwise impoverished) diet, leading to somebody instituting a subsidy in the past? Is there some minor official in the state or school authority structure with a somewhat eccentric medical enthusiasm?

    I’d honestly be much less baffled if this were either more pragmatic doping(stimulants or modafinil, say) or some identifiable school of dubiously-validated medical theory(some sort of ground-up-endangered-species TCM, or vitamin megadoses, or homeopathic somethingorother 10C); but this is just weird: it’s a lean-protein snack, only much less convenient…

    1. I would not be surprised if the ‘amino acids’ are not in fact amino acids but focus aids, it would also explain the frequent trips to re-up… 
      http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/cathinone/cathinone.shtml something like this, cheap and i’ll bet it’s readily available in china. 

      i’d imagine modinfil is rather expensive to get a whole school hooked on. 

      they could also be pumping them full of biological dopamine and serotinin precursors  to lessen fatigue do to loss of sleep. Stuff like 5-htp and the like. 

      (you seem to know much more than i do about this.)

    2. How it is made an homeopathic aid for studying?
      With shredded failed tests?
      Dense essence? 

      1. Let’s just say that, while last year’s lowest-scoring student was unable to make anything of himself, we were.

  3. So everyone is taking this at face value and not questioning whether it is real or not? I know there are many extreme stories coming out of China these days, but does this mean that we no longer question the truthfulness of anything, or is everyone so quick to jump on the ‘the Chinese are so backward’ bandwagon?

    What I notice is that none of the pictures show those IV lines actually connected to any bodies. Don’t you have to role up your sleeve to connect an IV? Everyone there seems to be wearing long sleeves.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if this wasn’t some students playing a prank so as to get a load of attention on their Weibo pages. 

    1. An IV with a slow drip factor is first started on the most distal portion of the extremity, such as the back of the hand.  One does not start all IV infusions in the forearm or the antecubital (interior elbow).

    2. Who’s more backwards- the Chinese or North Americans who make up really far-fetched excuses and conspiracy theories?

      1. You do realise that there’s an entire world of other countries out there that are gobsmacked by the conduct of both?

        1.  Yeah, I live in Central America. All the guns here are from the US and all the decent roads around here are built by the Taiwanese. My comment was about you tinfoil hat wearers up north. Always gotta b.s. theory about everything even when the plain boring truth is right in front of your face.

          1. Apparently you really don’t realise that there’s a entire world of other countries out there. You are most likely both closer to the equator and closer to the north than I.

    3.  Good point formosaman. Then again, when the New York Times reports (truthfully) that women in Florida are getting nasogastric tubes just to diet for their weddings, anything seems plausible.

    4. Yeah, my initial reaction was skepticism, too.  

      I’m perfectly willing to believe some school administrator somewhere  is willing to try something this unusual , but before I believe any narrative along the lines of “look at these crazy people” I want some more context and confirmation.

  4. That’s freaky indeed.  which amino acids?  (the “nine essential”? in what proportions? tryptophan is one of the essential which can make one sleepy, so not that one?)  it would be far more efficacious to have caffeine in the drip.  more directly i wonder what the scam-artist gets from each of these student’s parents to hook them up to pure saline.  well we can hope it’s pure saline and not just filled out of the hose-pipe in back.

    1. your blood cells would begin to explode if it wasn’t at least a saline solution. 

      1. Actually, people get non-saline intravenously all the time.  D5W is 5% dextrose in water.

        1. I have been told that a non-saline intravenous solution will eventually cause blood cells to burst due to the differences in salt concentrations between the red blood cell interior and the blood plasma(not sure if that’s the correct terminology)

          [i was told this by an instructor who was a biology major that happened to be teaching the chemistry class i was in, so i took his word for it. ]

          I looked up the solutions you speak of, and that is interesting, i will stop spreading misinformation. I do feel it’s relevant to mention solutions like D5NS exist which contain the normal concentration of saline for intravenous re-hydration with the five percent dextrose solution, there also exists D51/2NS which contains half the amount of normal saline paired with the dextrose. Anyway it’s all very interesting and i am curious what sort of condition i person would have to be in order for them to need a non-saline dextrose injection (I assume dehydration without vomit or physical exertion?). I’d actually be curious to hear more about this.Anyway i’m rambling.

          1. D5½NS is generally the default solution. There’s also D5¼NS. You wouldn’t normally hang NS on somebody who was hypernatremic, for example.

  5. Best hangover treatment I’ve ever had was a liter of Lactated Ringers given IV over an hour.  I believe all Navy Corpsman learn that the first week in A-school…  I’m guessing that’s not what they’re doing here.

  6. for this to work, they also have to all be wearing adult (or semi-adult) diapers.  it wouldn’t surprise me; that’s less extreme than iv drips.

    1. Why would they have to be wearing diapers?  The IV tubing disconnects easily without the catheter being removed.

      1. if they can get up, why not get a snack (and perhaps a booty call — they are teenagers after all — though soiled adult diapers might be a good way to encourage abstinence)

  7. Real or not, the sheer panic and despair about getting into university is horrifying. 

  8. I read an interview with a Chinese Olympic athlete who was nurtured by the state and given every possible kind of resource and training. Then he hurt his knee or something. Within six months he was homeless and nearly starving, having been thrown away by the government like a disposable diaper. Which begs the question: what happens to the kids in this program who do not score top marks on the test?

    1. They can’t support someone who’s unproductive. That would be communism.

    2. “what happens to the kids in this program who do not score top marks on the test?”

      Soylent green or baby food to be sold to America.

      1. It suddenly occurred to me, where do they get the amino acids from? Recycled?

    3. Also, I know someone who went to college in the US on a water polo scholarship.  Fell off a chair and hurt himself.  Immediate GTFO from the school.

  9. I teach English to Chinese kids between about 3-4 and about 14. It’s really sad to see many of them change from being happy, creative kids to just being exhausted and unable to function. An example conversation with a young teenager could go like this:

    Me: What do you do in your free time?
    Student: I do my homework.
    Me: No, free time is when you aren’t doing work, you can do what you like. What do you like to do when you’re not working?
    Student: Oh, I understand. I like to sleep.
    Me: And what do you do when you’re on holiday?
    Student: I study extra classes.

    There are quite a few exceptions, I have a number of students who completely defy the stereotype of uncreative Asians (and many parents see that this amount of pressure is counterproductive), but I can’t blame people who aren’t that creative or motivated – that takes energy, for a start.

  10. An IV drip for 10 yuan?  Man, now I *KNOW* I was overcharged for everything when I went to Shanghai last year.

  11. in the u.s. we prefer our star students to take less noticeable measures: adderall, red bull, coke, speed and caffeine. 

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