Ho Chi Minh Reinstates Compulsory Detox For Addicts

By McCarton Ackerman 12/15/14

After a year-long suspension, the city is reinstating its controversial drug treatment program.

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Ho Chi Minh is addressing both drug abuse and the crimes that addicts in the Vietnamese metropolis often commit due to their addiction by relaunching a controversial addiction treatment program.

The new program will not only check on the health of addicts throughout the city, but also send their profiles to courts so they can determine what form of detoxification is most appropriate for them. Compulsory detoxification was banned throughout the country for over a year over concerns about human rights violations, but that ban was lifted at the beginning of the month.

Nearly 1,240 addicts have been admitted to city rehab centers in the last few days and 958 of them have already had their personal profiles completed. The city’s vice chairman, Hua Ngoc Thuan, vowed that there would be no addicts wandering Ho Chi Minh as soon as February.

However, some medical professionals believe that not enough is being done to prepare addicts throughout Vietnam for their release from compulsory rehab. Although a few facilities offer vocational training such as sewing and motorbike repair, they only receive the training for two to three months and it isn’t enough to become a professional. The lack of employment, combined with an often low education level, frequently leads to relapses among those who complete treatment.

Ho Chi Minh had previously tried to address the issue of addiction by opening a volunteer-based treatment center, but officials throughout the country slammed it as a failure. Approximately 75% of those who enrolled in the the Drug Addiction Treatment and Consultancy Center have dropped out, with only six people graduating from the three-month program. Even though 60% of those who entered only signed up for the 15-day program, which is just enough time to overcome the physical cravings, many didn’t last that long.

Because of this, many government officials believe compulsory rehabs in an environment where they can focus on getting clean are the only viable option for keeping addicts away from their drugs of choice.

“[Compulsory rehab] only isolates addicts from the environment where they can use drugs, and not the community as a whole. Their families and friends can still visit them often,” said Nguyen Thanh Thai, former chairman of the Ho Chi Minh government. “It’s not acceptable to depend largely on community-based voluntary rehabilitation, especially when the related laws, staff and facilities aren't ready.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.