Ho Chi Minh City promotes community-based drug detox

By Minh Hung, Thanh Nien News

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A drug user being examined at the Ho Chi Minh City Drug Rehabilitation Consulting Center. Photo by Minh Hung
Ho Chi Minh City authorities opened a methadone treatment center on Tuesday and continued to push a trial project to provide community-based drug treatment despite the fact that it has not been as effective as expected.
Launched a year ago by the city’s drug detoxification center, the project has offered consultations to nearly 300 drug users and offered treatment for 130 in-patients.
Le Trong Sang, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said the project has not been as effective as previously expected.
“After a year of working with the new model, we have seen some initial success but  several limitations remain that should be rectified,” he told Thanh Nien News on the sideline of the conference Tuesday to review the project.
“Communication must be improved to ensure drug users and their families have access to relevant information about voluntarily treatment and current regulations,” he said.
“Secondly, the medical staff should be more invested as they are vital to the project’s success,” he said.
According to Nguyen Hoang Long, director of Vietnam Administration for HIV/AIDS Control, there are about 16,000 drug users in HCMC, of which ten percent are being treated with methadone.
“The current relapse rate is more than 90 percent,” he told Thanh Nien News.
According to the city's social affairs department, the city has 13 rehabilitation centers offering treatment to about 9,000 drug users every year.
However, only 6,000 typically return home after their release; local ward-level authorities have only been able to monitor some 3,000 people. A third of the returnees remain unemployed and the rest hold unstable or temporary jobs.
Experts say Vietnam should improve community based treatment projects and are gradually shutting down compulsory treatment centers that have proven ineffective.
Le Van Quy, director of the HCMC Drug Rehabilitation Consulting Center, said that some drug users should still be offered compulsory treatment based on the degree of their drug dependence.
“But I think compulsory detoxification should be limited and gradually stopped. Meanwhile, community-based treatment programs should be expanded,” he told Thanh Nien News.
Asia Nguyen, advisor to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s global AIDS program, said Vietnam should put an end to compulsory drug treatment centers.
“We have no evidence that supports the effectiveness of the [compulsory] drug treatment model.”

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