Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has urged people from all walks of life to fully realise the devastating effects of drugs as a proportion of them have so far perceived ambiguously the danger of the addictive substance, especially methamphetamine.

Deputy PM Phuc was speaking at a ceremony in Hanoi on June 24 to present awards to those who won a propaganda painting contest featuring the fight against drug and kick off an exhibition on propaganda paintings on the theme.

He admitted that drug abuse in the country is problematic and increasingly complicated. He pointed out that domestic drug criminals have closely colluded with foreign dealers or Vietnamese drug traders who are hiding in other countries to smuggle drugs into Vietnam.

New kinds of drugs, in particular methamphetamine, which were proved to severely ruin human health, are making their inroads into many localities nationwide, the Government leader warned.

Vietnam has so far recorded over 170,000 drug addicts, whose bad habits have directly devastated their families and indirectly affected the country’s socio-economic development, he said.

Deputy PM Phuc called on international organisations to enhance their support to Vietnam and media agencies boost their dissemination on the fight against drugs, especially methamphetamine, making it a core activity to wipe out the supply and lessen demands for drugs.

At an online forum on the Government's portal the same day, Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Trong Dam said Vietnam is seeking to reduce the level of reliance on compulsory treatments for drug addicts in favour of promoting the role of community support groups and other psychological assistance.

He added that his Ministry is working on a national project that aims to further overhaul the country's drug treatment procedures.

Dam Huu Dac, Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam Elderly Association called on the Government to encourage the establishment of a drug treatment model at community level, and for private entities to invest in treatment centres in neighbourhoods across the country.

Zhuldyz Akisheva, Country Manager of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vietnam (UNODC), said her organisation has been working closely with the Vietnamese Government for the past 20 years, especially in eliminating the growing of opium and fighting drug trafficking.

She said the UNODC has run projects with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, among others, to deal with the abuse of drugs, stressing the need to approach drug treatment from a health perspective.

According to Dam, currently there are about 17 private drug treatment centres nationwide but most of them operate under the same method as the state-owned centres and lack the ability to provide psychological support and other services.

He said the new reform project would also focus on providing better legal assistance allowing drug addicts to benefit from simplified procedures at treatment centres and increased access to health services.

He argued that a greater focus on methadone treatment was important.

The country currently has about 60 centres nationwide providing methadone and aims at offering as many as 80,000 drug addicts access to methadone treatment by 2015.

The forum was held ahead of the UN International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which falls on June 26 (also Vietnam's Anti-Drug Day).-VNA