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Vietnamese anti-drug officials step up fight against synthetic drugs

Da Nang (Viet Nam), 6 June 2013
- The rapid growth of the synthetic drug market in Viet Nam and the recent emergence of new psychoactive and synthetic substances has become a top priority for Vietnamese law enforcement and public health agencies - and made gaining a comprehensive understanding of the problem a major challenge.

"The abuse of synthetic drugs continues to increase in Viet Nam, especially among youth," said Pol. Snr. Col. Nguyen Kien, the Director of the Standing Office on Drugs and Crime (SODC). "Drug use is having a severe negative impact on public health and people's livelihoods."

To address this, UNDOC's Global Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme held a national workshop in collaboration with the Standing Office on Drugs and Crime of Viet Nam (SODC) in Da Nang City. The workshop explored ways to enhance the collection and analysis of data in order to develop effective responses to synthetic drug-related issues in Viet Nam. In addition, a representative of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board of Thailand (ONCB) outlined their own drug-related data collection and sharing experiences.

"To successfully address the illicit drugs problem, including synthetic drugs, we must understand the threat better by improving the quality of information we have and by ensuring that this information is shared among all relevant national agencies," said Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva, UNODC Viet Nam Country Manager.

While heroin remains the primary drug of use in Viet Nam, the use of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), including methamphetamine and a variety of new psychoactive substances sold on the streets as ecstasy, has expanded swiftly in recent years, particularly among young drug users.

More recently, the Government of Viet Nam has seen the emergence of a number of new psychoactive substances and other synthetic substances on the ATS market.

Similar to workshops previously conducted in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Philippines since 2009, this first Global SMART Programme national workshop held in Viet Nam drew 45 attendees, mainly from Viet Nam public health and law enforcement authorities.

The workshop discussed data collection and capacity building activities carried out by the Global SMART Programme in East and Southeast Asia. Held 30-31 May 2013, it also clarified the role of Member States in sharing information according to international standards and reporting formats. Participants identified the requirements necessary to generate data and information and to reduce the gaps that impair drug-related data quality in Viet Nam.

"This workshop is an important opportunity for our anti-drug officials," said Pol. Snr. Col. Nguyen Kien. "We're here to share information with our colleagues from Thailand's Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) and UNODC so that we can enhance Viet Nam's awareness of and capacity in illicit drug data collection, analysis and reporting."

UNODC launched the Global SMART Programme in September 2008 to enhance the capacity of member states and authorities in East and Southeast Asia to generate, manage, analyse and report synthetic drug information, and to apply this evidence-based knowledge to policy and programme design. The SMART Programme is supported financially by the Governments of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Recent SMART Programme support to the Government of Viet Nam includes the joint UNODC Country Office in Viet Nam and SODC launch of the report Amphetamine-Type Stimulants in Viet Nam - Review of the Availability, Use and Implications for Health and Security, funded with support from the Governments of Japan and Sweden.