Vietnam urges more methadone treatment for people who use drugs. By Le Nguyen


Statistics by the HIV/AIDS Prevention Department of the Ministry of Health (MOH) of Vietnam shows that currently there are about 170,000 drug users in the listed record of the country. Vietnam is urging more methadone treatment for people who use drugs nationwide as it is seen as an effective method in helping prevent HIV/AIDS, according to the MOH.
Methadone has been widely used worldwide for many years. The United States has used it since 1964 and has around 750 methadone-treatment centres for drug users. France has used methadone for drug treatment since the 1990s, and has up to 5,000 centers. In Asia, Hong Kong has applied methadone treatment since 1972 and at present most of its drug users are now treated with methadone. In 2005, the World Health Organization officially recognized and included methadone in its essential medicines list.
Methadone treatment started in Vietnam rather late where the programme was first launched in 2008 with a modest beginning of 15 specialized clinics in six cities and provinces only. However their number has grown over the years. According to the MOH at present there are 62 such clinics nationwide and their methadone treatment programme has benefitted about 14,000 drug users during a period of 5 years from 2008—2013. The programme has the ambitious target of treating 80,000 drug users at 245 clinics in 30 localities by 2015.
The results of methadone treatment have been encouraging with a substantial reduction in the number of drug users after 24-months’ treatment, reported MOH at a meeting on the subject held in August 2013 in Vietnam’s central Da Nang city. Drug users find life easier when they can get free methadone treatment at clinics every day. The therapy helps improve their health and overcomes the sharing of needles, which can be a big source of spreading the infection of HIV/AIDS.
However, as of now only 20% of the people who need this therapy have access to methadone treatment services. That is why, according to the Vietnam National Mental Health Institute, which initiated the application of methadone treatment in Vietnam, drug users are advised to go medical centres, mental hospitals or detoxification centers for treatment with methadone.
Methadone is just one “treatment door” among many others, including buprenorphine and naltrexone, which are wide open to drug users. Each is suitable for the affected communities depending upon their country’s socio-economic conditions. But all of them lead to the common goal of helping the users to get rid of drug abuse.
With an improvement in its socio-economic condition and global integration, Vietnam, through its international exchange of experience, can take advantage of the up-to-date methods, including methadone treatment, to tackle drug abuse, and kindle the hope for a bright future for many drug users in the country.

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