Red tape keeps Vietnam addicts out of rehab

By Thu Hang, Thanh Nien News

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A man was arrested for holding his girlfriend hostage while under the influence of drugs in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province in 2012. Photo: Nguyen Long A man was arrested for holding his girlfriend hostage while under the influence of drugs in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province in 2012. Photo: Nguyen Long


Only 33 of Vietnam's 204,377 drug addicts were sent to rehab between January and July due to holes in the current referral system, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
The report was released at a meeting of the parliamentary Social Affairs Committee on Saturday to discuss law enforcement procedures to address drug rehabilitation.
Le Quy Vuong, deputy minister of Public Security, said the number of drug users in Vietnam has increased in recent years, threatening public security and fueling crime.
“Drug addicts can become dangerous criminals without strict management,” he said.
Increasing drug users
According to the Ministry of Public Security, 44 percent of drug users nationwide are unemployed while another 41 percent work unstable jobs. Roughly 50 percent of drug users are farmers.
A total of 142 drug rehabilitation centers nationwide now treat 32,200 people.
While there appears to be little consensus on the number of drug addicts in the country, relevant agencies seem to agree that they are growing in number. 
The Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs reported that the number of drug users increased from 158,414 people to 181,396 in 2013.
The ministry reported roughly 185,000 drug users in August (smaller than the number reported by the Ministry of Public Security), of which 96 percent are men and 50 percent are aged 16-30.
Drug users have been recorded in all cities and provinces, the report said.
Rehabilitation gridlock
Under the Law on Handling Administrative Violations, which took effect on January 1, repeat drug offenders must submit to compulsory drug rehabilitation for 1-2 years if they relapse after completing community rehabilitation.
The law transfers the power to send them to compulsory rehab from local People's Committees, the local governments, to district-level courts. However, judges say they have not been made aware of the new regulation and have no way of implementing it without the proper government procedural guidance, which has yet to be issued.
Nguyen Trong Dam, deputy minister of social affairs, said relevant agencies have not sent drug users to rehab centers due to a lack of detailed legal documents, particularly those related to the procedures used to determine an addict's level of addiction and how to allocate funds for their treatment.
According to deputy minister of Justice Dinh Trung Tung, 43 administrative forms must be filled out by several agencies to send a single drug user to a rehabilitation center.
Truong Thi Mai, chairwoman of the parliamentary Social Affairs Committee, said the justice and social affairs ministries should work together to resolve the procedural problems.
“Otherwise, drug-related crime will continue to rise,” she said.

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