Methamphetamine use on the rise in Vietnam

Thanh Nien News (The story can be found in the March 7th issue of our print edition, Vietweek)

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The drug continues to cause strange and terrifying scenes across the country
Drug convicts watch music concert called "Bringing Music Into Hospitals" organized by a group of local artists to mark World Aids Day at an official center for treatment of drug addiction in Hanoi on November 29, 2013. In Vietnam, methamphetamine addicts are not required to undergo compulsory rehabilitation like those caught using other drugs. Photo: AFP
Nguyen Van Tha got high on crystal methamphetamine and wanted to kill his friend Ngo Thanh Hoang while the duo and their girlfriends partied a little too hard at a hotel in the beach town of Vung Tau on Wednesday.
Ba Ria-Vung Tau police arrested Tha, Hoang and two women, Nguyen Thi Tham and Nguyen Thi Phuong - all from Ho Chi Minh City - at around 8:30 a.m. on March 5 after Tha had held Hoang hostage for almost five hours.
All four arrestees subsequently tested positive for the drug.
Police have warned about increasing cases of people committing crimes under the influence of methamphetamine, especially “ice” (crystal methamphetamine), as the drug trade has grown in recent years.
“Ice use is spreading from big cities to industrial zones and rural areas,” Major general Nguyen Anh Tuan, director of the Drug-Crime Police Department at the Ministry of Public Security, was quoted by the government website as saying.
Ice age
Tuan said methamphetamine is being smuggled into Vietnam from Laos and China as well as being made locally.
“Many criminals are those who had been sent to work abroad where they learned how to make methamphetamine,” he said.
On March 5, Nghe An police arrested Truong Ngoc Duong after three years in hiding after his drug-production ring was busted and several of his subordinates were arrested in Hanoi in 2011.
In another case, Quang Ninh police on February 25 arrested Lam Truong Giang, also on ice-production charges.
Police seized his equipment, chemicals and documents with methamphetamine formulas at his apartment in the province’s Ha Long Town.
Giang confessed that he had been making methamphetamine since last July, selling it to local drug users in town.
Police have also engaged in several methamphetamine drug busts at airports and border gates recently.
On February 26, border guards at Quang Ninh Province’s Mong Cai Border Gate arrested Nguyen Phu Cuong for smuggling nearly five kilograms of methamphetamine from China into Vietnam.
Cuong confessed that he bought the drug from a Chinese man in Guangxi’s Dongxing City and hid them in two speakers to smuggle into Vietnam.
Killer dose
On February 27, a 21-year-old man in Hai Phong City’s An Duong District severed part of his penis with a razor after using methamphetamine.
The man, identified only as B., was admitted to the Viet Tiep Hospital before being transferred to the 108 Military Hospital in Hanoi where doctors managed to reattach a severed part of his organ.
In another case, Tran Tuan Khuong of Hanoi was arrested on January 2 for cutting off his hospitalized sister's leg while high on methamphetamine.
Khuong, 43, said his sister was screaming about being possessed by a ghost, so he severed her leg, thinking the massive flow of blood would release the ghost from her being.
The sister, Tran Thanh Dung, 50, was being treated at Saint Paul Hospital for her cervical cancer, which had spread to her brain.
He claimed to have had no intention of harming her.
Nguyen Cong To, deputy director of the hospital, said that Dung was rushed to the emergency department with her right leg cut off at the knee but they were unable to reattach it.
'No available rehabilitation plan'
A Hanoi-based police official, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the use of crystal meth has become more common nationwide despite media campaigns to the contrary.
“Crystal methamphetamine causes paranoia and aggressiveness. Many people assume that every one is their enemy after using drug and the begin to attack or kill,” he said.
“The delusion is even stronger in those who had used heroin before,” he said, adding that drug users may harm themselves or others under the influence.
He said it is difficult to monitor methamphetamine users because they are not categorized as a group of drug users that must undergo mandatory rehabilitation when caught using.
“Moreover, there is no available rehabilitation plan for methamphetamine users,” he added.
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