|A 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. — Soha.vn Photo
by Kieu Van
His family and friends could not believe how quickly a young healthy man like Pham Thanh Tung could become so weak.
The 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.
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."
Since ATS addiction is hard to detect, experts have cautioned friends, relatives or colleagues can be using the drugs without people knowing it.
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.
Dr 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.
Looking 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.
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 Dam.
Since 2010, ATS has become the second most widely used drug in Viet Nam, after heroin.
A 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. — VNS