Vietnam steps up methadone treatment nationwide

Thanh Nien News

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Two men inject drugs on Vo Van Kiet Street in Ho Chi Minh City. File photo Two men inject drugs on Vo Van Kiet Street in Ho Chi Minh City. File photo


Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has once again ordered the leaders of Vietnam's cities and provinces to establish alternative treatment resources, like methadone clinics, for the nation's growing population of drug addicts.
Alternative treatments play an important role in preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS among injection drug users and reducing drug-related crime, the instruction noted.
Government statistics show there are more than 204,000 drug addicts in the country, 27-30 percent of whom have criminal records.
In 2012, the central government issued a decree on “Substitution Treatment of Opioid Addiction” and relevant agencies have rolled out methadone treatment nationwide.
However, by mid-October, only 38 of 63 cities and provinces nationwide had applied the measure, offering treatment to 21,613 people.
In his latest instruction, the Prime Minister ordered relevant agencies and local authorities to update their statistics on their populations of drug users and make alternative treatment services available to them.
Localities with major drug and HIV/AIDS problems will have to set up methadone treatment centers, he noted.
The Ministry of Health will coordinate with the Ministry of Finance to issue an official budgetary framework for methadone treatment.
Prime Minister Dung issued the instruction as drug use and drug-related crime continue to rise and law enforcement officers complain they are unable to remand drug users to compulsory rehabilitation centers.
A new law that went into effect at the beginning of the year mandated that drug offenders could only be sent to rehabilitation centers if they relapsed after completing a community rehabilitation program.
The power to send them to rehab has, however, been taken away from local governments and vested in district courts. Judges have complained that they cannot enforce the new regulations without proper guidance, which has yet to be issued.
Last month, HCMC police estimated that around 500 drug-addicted gangsters currently threaten the city's public security.
This year, a total of 4,668 crimes have resulted in 65 deaths and 572 injuries in Vietnam's southern economic hub.

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