Latest banned drugs can be hard to detect


young man with tattoos on his back is arrested by special police in the
capital city after he sped on down a one-way street to escape them.
Police believe he is an ATS addict. — Photo

33-year-old man, who once exercised regularly at the local gym, had
turned into a sleep-deprived, doleful person unable to lead a normal
life. His family and friends could not believe how quickly a young healthy man like Pham Thanh Tung could become so weak.

Tung quit his job with the Viettel telecommunications firm
and started a cosmetics shop, but that failed as well. Eventually, his
wife and two children gave up the long battle they waged to try and get
Tung to free himself from his ATS (Amphetamine-type Stimulants)
addiction. They left.
Now, Tung’s 70-year-old mother has to take
care of him using her meagre pension. She says she has to keep an eye on
her son round the clock to keep him away from the drugs.
Dr Do
Huu Vuong of the Dong Da General Hospital in Ha Noi says the most
dangerous aspect of the ATS problem is that it is difficult to detect an
ATS user, since addiction symptoms look like normal fatigue and gloom.
Most people around an ATS addict tend to assume the person is suffering
from overwork and sleeplessness.
Tung’s wife, a beautiful and
modern woman who runs a successful music school, says she only
discovered that her husband was an ATS addict a year after he had
started consuming them.
In tears, she says: “His personality
changed completely. He became easily angry with the children. He did not
help me take care of them. All the money we saved to invest in his
business disappeared because trading partners wouldn’t sign contracts
after seeing him miss several appointments.”
Excessive excitement
ATS addiction is hard to detect, experts have cautioned friends,
relatives or colleagues can be using the drugs without people knowing
Two sisters living in District 10, HCM City were given
emergency aid at the Nhi Dong 1 Hospital recently after their cousin – a
suspected ATS user – hit their heads with an iron pipe.
Nguyen Huu Khanh Duy, Director of the Thanh Da rehabilitation facility
for drug addicts in HCM City, says crystalline methamphetamine triggers
excessive excitement in users.
For instance, women who are ATS
addicts have enormous sexual appetites, he says. A teenage addict being
treated at a rehabilitation centre in Ha Noi says that she had to have
sex with five to six partners at the same time to be satisfied.
older than her 16 years, the skinny girl had been using crystalline
methamphetamine for two years, and has to receive special treatment and
care at the centre. Pham Thi Minh, a former drug addict who now works
for Ha Noi-based community charity group named Gach Dau Dong, says using
synthetic drugs and ATS is a current trend among young people in
cities. She says the youth don’t know of the serious effects of such
drugs, and they basically believe “it’s just for fun.”
“I think
it is social modern trend. People believe that these drugs are safe, and
that only the use of heroin and other similar drugs can lead to
addiction or HIV infections.”
At a recent meeting held in Ha Noi
to release the World Drug Report 2015, Nguyen Trong Dam, Deputy Minister
of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs said the use of Amphetamine-type
Stimulants (ATS), especially crystalline methamphetamine, was rising in
Viet Nam.
Most prevalent
The use of
crystalline methamphetamine far surpasses the use of other
methamphetamine pills. It is most prevalent among young drug users
living in large cities, border areas and industrial zones, according to
Since 2010, ATS has become the second most widely used drug in Viet Nam, after heroin.
UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) report says that the
illicit manufacture of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs is
expanding rapidly in Viet Nam.
Deputy Minister Dam said although
Viet Nam had comprehensive programmes to help drug addicts recover and
re-integrate into the community, “the fight against ATS use remains a
challenge that needs support from UN agencies.
At State-owned
rehabilitation facilities, medical remedies for all kinds of drug
addicts had been approved by the Ministry of Health, but ATS addicts
needed more psychological support from their families.
A similar
message was delivered by UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon on the
occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illegal
Trafficking (June 26, 2015).
He said alternatives to
criminalisation and incarceration of people who use drug should be
considered and criminal justice efforts should focus on those involved
in supplying the drugs.
“We should increase the focus on public
health, prevention, treatment and care, as well as on economic, social
and cultural strategies,” he wrote.

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