Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has called Vietnam’s drug treatment programs so far a failure and urged a switch to voluntary treatment to save public funds.
Speaking at a meeting Friday he said officials should be honest about the real situation of drug treatment.
He cited international reports as saying that 80 percent of addicts in Vietnam relapse into drug use after treatment.
"That figure is optimistic," Dam said. "We have to be frank: We've failed."
If it is a failure it is a costly one since, according to Dam, the government spends more than VND10 million (US$468) on each addict at rehabilitation centers every year, not to mention the expense on their families.
He said Vietnam should follow other countries to focus on voluntary rehab and community-based treatment using methadone.
When addicts sign up for treatment voluntarily, they would be determined to go through it, he said, without saying what usually happens to others.
“The switch will save the society the cost.
“It doesn’t mean that only patients with money will be treated; those without money will still be supported.”
According to the social affairs ministry, Vietnam had 200,000 drug addicts in 2014 but only 36,500 were treated at rehab centers, 77 percent at compulsory rehab centers.
Nearly 25,000 others got treated with methadone, which eases drug withdrawal.
The current Law on Handling Administrative Violations, which took effect in January 2014, transferred the authority to send drug addicts to compulsory rehab from the police to district-level courts.
But the process of sending addicts to rehabs took so much time that many cities and provinces did not manage to send a single one last year.