A new Vietnamese drug law in the making

As Vietnam is working towards creating a new drug law, it is of the utmost importance to ensure the inclusion of a human rights and public health perspective. Two major advocacy events took place in Vietnam in October. Mainline's Nick Veldwijk was there to share Mainline's views.

The first was a conversation with the Social Committee of the National Assembly that was organised by SCDI on 15 October. The country has seen a sharp rise in people who use crystal meth and the committee is looking for ways to tackle the social issues associated with meth use.

This is not an easy task in the midst of a media hype, which worsens the stigma around people who use drugs. Mainline was present, together with other international experts from France and Australia to share experiences from other countries with the commission members.

A general consensus was reached around the need to evaluate current interventions in Vietnam, which are mostly focused on injecting heroin users. There are high hopes that the draft of the new law will take up the evidence-based interventions that were presented at the meeting.

Examples that were mentioned: the need to include human rights in policy, the importance of voluntary treatment and the appreciation of mental health as a concern for some people who use drugs.

Best treatment = no arrest

Importantly, it was noted throughout the meeting that only a small percentage of meth users become dependent and might seek treatment at some point in their lives. For the large majority of users, it is more efficient to focus on early interventions to prevent the escalation of drug use and to make sure young kids don’t get caught up in the justice system.

A second meeting took place on October 16th and targeted a group of 40 Vietnamese journalists. The media plays a strong role in creating a public fear of meth as ‘a killer drug’ or a drug that leads to aggressive and violent behaviour. During the press conference, experts were invited to speak about best practices.

Among them was Mainline’s Nick Veldwijk. He shared Mainline's views, suggested to incorporate harm reduction interventions and drug treatment in formal policy and that drug use should be approached as a social and public health issue rather than an issue for the justice system.

Read more about our ambition to start a 'field lab' and our Train-the-trainer trainings in Vietnam. 

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