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New illicit drugs starting to flood domestic market

Update: June, 27/2015 - 09:19
The use of illicit, synthetic substances was increasing in Viet Nam.— File photo
HA NOI  (VNS) — The use of illicit, synthetic substances was increasing in Viet Nam, Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs, Nguyen Trong Dam told a meeting of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Ha Noi yesterday.

Dam was speaking at a meeting to announce the release of the 2015 UN World Drug Report.

He said the use of psycho-active substances (NPS) had emerged in recent years, adding that many drug users purchased supplies on the internet.

The deputy minister said the use of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) was common among young drug users in big cities, border areas and industrial zones, adding that the market had developed swiftly in the past 10 years.

(Amphetamine-type stimulants, ATS, refers to a group of drugs whose principal members include amphetamine and methamphetamine).

"The Vietnamese Government realises that the impact of ATS use is very dangerous in the community. ATS users can even commit murder when they lose control," Dam said.

He said treatment for drug-addicts at State rehabilitation centres in Viet Nam had made remarkable progress in the last three years. As of May 2015, there were 162 Methadone Maintenance Therapy clinics in 44 provinces and cities.

More than 29,800 people were receiving treatment, equal to 36.8 per cent of the target.

A representative from the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security said the illicit manufacture of methamphetamines and other synthetic drugs was expanding rapidly in the country.

He said large quantities were trafficked into Viet Nam from or through Laos to supply the domestic market and for further overland trafficking to China.

Heroin seizures continued to rise in the first three months of this year with a total of 260kg being seized, an increase of 46kg compared to the same period last year.

In 2014, a total of 922kg of heroin was detected. Heroin remains the most widely used illicit drug in Viet Nam.

The report said methamphetamine dominated the global market for synthetic drugs, and its use was expanding in East and Southeast Asia.

Seizures of ATS reached more than 144 tonnes in the period 2011- 2012, a two-fold increase against 2009, and remained high in 2013.

By December 2014, a total of 541 new psycho-active substances (NPS) had been reported by 95 countries and territories, an increase of 20 per cent against 2013 (450).

The UN World Drug Report said that the percentage of drug users around the world was stable, but opium production was increasing.

Christopher Batt, head of UNODC in Viet Nam, said at the ceremony a stable but unacceptably high number of drug users world-wide continued to lose their lives prematurely. He said there were an estimated 187,100 drug-related deaths in 2013.

However, the number of new HIV infections among people who injected drugs (PWID) declined by roughly 10 per cent between 2010 and 2013 - from an estimated 110,000 to 98,000.

However, the World Drug Report also indicated that many risk factors, including the transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C, and the incidence of drug overdoses, led to a death rate among PWID 15 times higher than in the rest of the population.

The use of opiates (heroin, opium) had remained stable and cocaine use had declined overall, the report said. However, the use of cannabis and the non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids had continued to rise.

The report said there were 32.4 million heroin and opium users in the world. In 2014, global potential opium production reached 7,554 tonnes - the second highest year since 1930 - due to cultivation increasing significantly in Afghanistan, the main source of supply.

The global seizures of heroin increased by 8 per cent while illicit morphine seizures decreased by 26 per cent from 2012 to 2013.

While maritime trafficking was not the most widely used mode of smuggling drugs, law enforcement authorities at sea had potentially the greatest impact as the average volume of seizures was proportionally higher.

For example, in the period 2009-14, the average seizure at sea was 365kg, while by land ( road and rail) it was 107kg and by air 10kg, the report said.

The report also noted a dynamic shift in the routes used for smuggling opiates, with Afghan heroin reaching new markets.

Recent seizures suggested that it may be more common for large shipments of Afghan heroin to be smuggled across the Indian Ocean into East and Southern Africa. —VNS

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