Patients are taking methadone at a treatment facility in Hanoi. (Source: vaac.gov.vn)

Hanoi (VNA)
– Deputy Director of the Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC) Hoang Dinh Canh has denied rumours that Vietnam will not continue providing methadone treatment due to claims it is ineffective for synthetic drug addicts, who are thought to account for the majority of drug users.

It is not correct that most drug addicts use synthetic drugs, according to Canh. Ministry of Public Security statistics show that the number of drug abusers was estimated at 210,751 in Vietnam by the end of 2016, with users of synthetic drugs accounting for 9.8 percent, or 20,778 people, he said.

Meanwhile, the number of people using opium-based drugs was 159,844, making up 75.8 percent of the total, and heroin was the most popular, used by 73.1 percent of the addicts, he noted, adding that these figures might be much higher as many cases were not recorded due to fear of discrimination.

In addition, drug abusers may change from using one drug to another, depending on their finances, desires and the drugs’ availability. Despite this, heroin is the most common drug among addicts, necessitating the provision of methadone treatment, he affirmed.

Cities, provinces and state agencies across the country will conduct more regular surveys to produce more accurate statistics about drug users to avoid rumours like this, the official revealed.

Vietnam should scale up the treatment as methadone treatment is currently only availablefor a third of drug users, he urged.

According to the VAAC deputy director, Vietnam started the Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT) programme in 2008 which has soon proved its effectiveness.

After a 24-month treatment course, only 15.37 percent of participating drug addicts relapsed into bad habits but these people also reduced the frequency of use.

High-risk behaviours for HIV have decreased at the same time. Before the treatment course, about 86.9 percent of the participating patients injected drugs. The figure declined to 53.9 percent after six months and 42.4 percent after 24 months among those continuing using drugs.

People taking the MMT have shown positive changes psychologically and physically. The number of the drug users committing crimes fell from 40.8 percent to 1.34 percent while the percentage of those with a job increased from 64.4 percent to 75.9 percent after the course.

In terms of finance, a drug addict uses about 84 million VND (3,696 USD) worth of drugs per year while the cost for MMT is only around 6 – 8 million VND (264 – 352 USD) annually. With over 52,230 people currently joining the programme, Vietnam can save approximately 4.39 trillion VND (193.16 million USD) every year.-VNA