Hanoi (VNA) – The Government has gradually reduced the number of compulsory drug rehabilitation centres and increased community or family-based recovery support models.

Counseling on behavioral intervention for drug users (Photo: VietnamPlus)

However, high post-rehab relapse rates have for years posed a challenge to rehab service providers, who are now encountering new meth addicts, forcing these firms need to make their services more suitable.

High post-rehab relapse rate

Head of the anti-social vice department of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Xuan Lap said prior to 2017, heroin was mainly found in Vietnam. From 2017 to now, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), such as cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine, have become more popular.

Reports from the Ministry of Public Security and the Anti-social vice department of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs have said drug use remains complicated as users of ATS account for 70-75 percent of total drug addicts and 90-95 percent in southern and southwestern regions.

“Sadly, ATS users are younger now,” Lap said, calling the death of seven young people using ATS in Ho Tay Water Park in Hanoi a “catastrophe”.

Drug users have killed their parents, grandparents and relatives in southwestern provinces and in recent tragic traffic accidents, the drivers were found to use drugs, Lap said.

While the number of drug addicts is rising in many localities, rehab centres in southwestern provinces and cities, especially compulsory ones, are overloaded. Rehab work fails to meet expectations as relapse rates show no signs of declining.

During a question-and-answer session at the seventh session of the 14th National Assembly, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung admitted the inefficiency of rehab work in the country as up to 90 percent of post-rehab people use drugs again after a very short time.

Nguyen Hoai Huong, Vice Director of the Centre for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI), a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, said methods to help people wean off their addiction are not diverse and mainly compulsory, so the rate of former addicts relapsing after re-integrating into society is high.

“There are several reasons for an ex-addict to go back to their addiction. So, if we put addicts in the centre and listen to their needs, we can provide them with appropriate services that allow their reintegration smoother and keep them from relapsing for longer,” Huong said.

Coping with challenges stemming from rehabilitation, the Government has reduced compulsory rehab centres and provided more other supportive services.

New models formed

At present, those who are force to enter rehab centres are sent by the courts.

That process is problematic, Lap said, noting that among 100 drug users there are those who don’t posed harm to the community.

In developed countries, drug addiction is approached as a disease and drug addicts need support to lead a stable life.

“Those who use drugs illegally and cause social disorder would likely face fines while those who destroy property and breach the rights and interests of others can be considered as committing a crime. Punishment must be given to the right people,” Lap said.

Counseling a drug addict (Illustrative photo: VNA)

According to Lap, previously anyone who tested positive for drugs was taken to rehab.

If this approach is not done well, it can violate human rights and citizens’ rights, he said, noting a categorised approach can classify violent drug users who need to go compulsory rehab centres.

To renew drug rehabilitation work, the country’s legal system is being refined and new rehab models and procedures are taking shape.

“We can learn drug courts from the US. The Supreme Court decided to establish a board to study and build drug courts in Vietnam. The model includes case workers, judges and representatives from the healthcare, public security and labour sectors. If we have an ‘architect’ for the model, it will be soon operating,” Lap said.

Rehab centres have previously provided post-rehab support for 12-24 months. However, in the last five years, all post-rehab management methods have no longer been used to ensure rights.

Lap said compulsory rehab centres have been shifted to multi-functional establishments to provide compulsory rehab under the courts’ decision from 12 to 24 months; conduct voluntary rehab treatment from six months and more; assist illegal drug users without accommodation to detoxify; provide alternative Methadone treatment; train vocations, provide counseling; and develop community-based satellite counseling centres to support community-based rehab.

Drug rehabilitation has been renewed with voluntary and community-based rehab encouraged.

The State has supported not only compulsory rehab but also voluntary rehab.

Le Trung Tuan, Chairman of the Management Council of the Research Institute on Psychology of Drug Users, said each month his institute receives hundreds of telephone calls relating to drug use counseling via its hotline as well as drug users who come for therapy to prevent relapses.

The appearance of new types of ATS that trigger severe psychological injuries for the users requires psychosocial health intervention to make rehabilitation effective.

To renovate the rehabilitation, the Government assigned the Ministry of Public Security to amend the Anti-drug Law 2008. The Ministry of Justice is reviewing problems in handling administrative violations in rehabilitation. Reports and law revisions are expected to be submitted to the National Assembly in 2020.-VNA