Only 22,000 patients from 38 cities and provinces received methadone maintenance treatment by November 15, 2014, Nguyen Hoang Long, head of the Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Department said in a workshop on the implementation of methadone maintenance treatment in Hanoi on November 20.

The event, aiming to assess the reality of drug use and access to methadone programmes, is part of a project run by the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA) and the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Long said this late implementation was due to local reliance on the Central agencies’ support, as well as a lack of local concern and human resources development. He added that relevant agencies should mobilise and encourage social organisations to get involved.

Administrative processes should be simplified to create favourable conditions for patients, he highlighted.

Most of the interviewed patients spoke highly of the methadone programme; however, treating addiction faces a number of problems, such as the increasing number of people using synthetic drugs, and lacking access to methadone programmes in some localities, a representative from Hai Phong said.

A number of issues were discussed at the workshop which included the legislative framework for alternative treatment using methadone, addiction treatment in the community and barriers in the access to methadone treatment.

Methadone, primarily used in World War II to relieve pain, is a long acting synthetic opiate with pharmacological effects similar to morphine. It was discovered as a treatment to help drug addicts stop using heroin by Dr Marie Nyswander and Dr Vincent Dole in 1964.-VNA