Viet Nam

Emerging trends and concerns

  • The amphetamine-type substances (ATS) market in Viet Nam continues to expand and diversify, and in particular, crystalline methamphetamine use is perceived to be on the increase across the country. 
  • In recent years, the number of registered drug users in Viet Nam has been rising, mainly due to an increase in the use of ATS1
  • A small number of clandestine laboratories for the manufacture of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs have been detected in Viet Nam over the past several years.
  • Substantial amounts of illicit drugs continue to be trafficked from neighbouring countries to Viet Nam through its northern provinces. In addition, transnational organized criminal groups continue to traffic large quantities of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals through Viet Nam to international markets.

Overview of the drug situation

The trafficking and use of ATS continue to increase in Viet Nam. According to expert perception, heroin remains the primary illicitly-used drug in Viet Nam. However, the Standing Office on Drugs Control (SODC) of Vietnam reports that methamphetamine use is on the increase across the country, not only amongst young drug users in major cities, but also within groups of people living in industrialized zones, villages and communities2.   Most of ATS seized in Viet Nam continue to originate from its neighbouring countries, and only a small number of clandestine methamphetamine manufacturing facilities have been dismantled in the country in recent years.

Table 1. Trend in use of selected drugs in Viet Nam, 2011-2015*
Source(s): DAINAP

In 2015, 24,123 persons received compulsory drug treatment from 142 drug treatment centres, of which 123 are managed by the Government. In addition, 25,397 drug users received community based treatment in 20153.  Data on the number of ATS users undergoing treatment in Viet Nam are not available.

The number of registered drug users in Viet Nam has increased rapidly over the last few years. For instance, in 2014, there was a total of 204,377 registered drug users, a 30% increase compared with 2010 (143,196)4.  The figure for 2015 (200,134) decreased slightly from the 2014 figure, yet it still represents the second highest number on record. By drug type (2014), the majority of the registered drug users were heroin users, accounting for 75% (155,936) of the total, followed by ATS (11.5%, 23,363 users), opium (4.2%, 8,524users), cannabis (3.7%, 7,652 users), and other drugs, including cocaine, (2.1%, 4,320 users)5.  However, there are indications that ATS use is growing in the country. For instance, ATS users accounted for 90% of newly registered drug users in some southern provinces in the country in the first half of 20156.  

Figure 1. The number of registered drug users in Viet Nam, 2011 – 2015
Source(s): DAINAP; SODC, “Drugs Control in Viet Nam”, 25th Anti-Drug Liaison Officials’ Meeting for International Cooperation (ADLOMICO), Jeju, Republic of Korea, 22-24 September 2015.

Large quantities of synthetic drugs continue to be seized in Viet Nam. The number of ATS pills seized in Viet Nam amounted to 297,285 pills in 2014 and 696,632 pills in 20157.  In 2015, an additional 983 kg of unspecified ATS, the largest amount ever reported in the country, was seized. It is currently not possible to determine seizure trends for crystalline methamphetamine, methamphetamine pills or “ecstasy” in Viet Nam due to the lack of disaggregated data. New psychoactive substances (NPS) are currently not a major concern in Viet Nam. In recent years, however, pills sold as “ecstasy”8 but containing NPS, such as PMMA9, mCPP10, BZP11  and TFMPP12 have been seized as well as a small amount of mephedrone13.14  Between 2015 and August 2016, a total of 27 substances, including several NBOMe-compounds and JWH-compounds, were added to the list of controlled substances in the country to restrict the availability of NPS15.  

Table 2. Seizures of selected drugs in Viet Nam, 2011-2015
Source(s): DAINAP; SODC, “Vietnam country report”, presented at the Thirty-second ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters Meeting (ASOD), Vientiane, 10-13 October 2011; Op. cit. SODC, September 2012; SODC, “Synthetic Monitoring, Reporting and Trends through Drug Analysis Activities, presented at the SMART Viet Nam National Workshop, Da Nang, Viet Nam, 30-31 May 2013; SODC, “Viet Nam country presentation”, presented at the Global SMART Programme Regional Workshop, Jakarta, 28-29 August 2013; SODC, “ Viet Nam country report”, presented at the Nineteenth Asia-Pacific Operational Drug Enforcement Conference (ADEC), Tokyo, 18-20 February 2014; SODC, “Viet Nam country presentation”, presented at the Global SMART Programme regional meeting, Yangon, Myanmar, 20-21 August 2014; SODC, ‘Problems relating to ATS and responses to its threats in Viet Nam’, presented at Global SMART Programme regional meeting, Beijing, China, 16-17 September 2015; SODC, ‘Latest situation on synthetic drugs and responses to the threats in Viet Nam’, presented at the Global SMART Programme regional workshop, Vientiane, Lao PDR, 30-31 August, 2016.

Viet Nam continues to be a destination and significant transit location for the trafficking of illicit drugs to international markets via land, sea and air route. A large share of illicit drugs trafficked into Viet Nam were transported across land borders with China and Lao PDR16.  Approximately 59% of the quantity of heroin seized in 2014 was detected in border areas with these two neighboring countries and substantial quantities of ATS were seized in these areas as well17.  The trafficking of illicit drugs (both inbound and outbound) and their precursor chemicals via international airports in Viet Nam, including West African drug trafficking groups, remains of concern.

Over the last few years, a small number of illicit manufacturing facilities for ATS have been dismantled in Viet Nam. In 2014, three illicit ATS facilities were dismantled, one each in Ha Noi, Quang Ninh and Dong Nai. No ATS manufacturing facilities were detected in the country during the first half of 201518.  According to Vietnamese national authorities, there are indications that large-scale clandestine methamphetamine manufacturing could be taking place in laboratories operated by Vietnamese nationals who used to live abroad and have since returned to Viet Nam19.  In recent years, most illicit methamphetamine manufacturing in Viet Nam was based on pseudoephedrine and ephedrine extracted from pharmaceutical preparations, as precursor chemicals . However, a small number of clandestine laboratories have been detected which were using ephedra herb,P-2-P, or phenylacetic acid as precursors20.  To address the diversion of precursor chemicals in the country, the Government of Viet Nam suspended issuing importation licenses for bulk pseudoephedrine from 2011 to 201321.

During the past two years, seizures of cocaine have increased significantly in Viet Nam. Having reported cocaine seizures for the first in 2013 (2.4kg), Viet Nam national authorities seized a total of 42 kg of the drug in 2014 and another 178kg in 201522.  However, in 2014, registered cocaine usersaccounted for only 0.3% of the all registered drug users in the country. Considering the small number of registered cocaine users in Viet Nam, most of the seized cocaine may have been destined for other countries, yet it is imperative to contiuously monitor this new development. In addition, during the first half of 2016, Viet Nam national authorities seized 5 mt of khat originating from South Africa and destined for Australia and the United States, indicating that the country continues to be targeted by transnational organized criminal groups as a transit location for illicit drug trafficking.      

Some quantities of cannabis are cultivated in Viet Nam, primarily for the domestic market. The illicit cultivation of opium poppy remains limited.

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1 Viet Nam does not provide ATS figures disaggregated by drug. However, according to Government experts, methamphetamine is the main ATS used.

2 Standing Office on Drugs and Crime (SODC), ‘Problems relating to ATS and responses to its threats in Viet Nam’, presented at Global SMART Programme regional meeting, Beijing, China, 16-17 September 2015.

3 SODC, ‘Latest situation on synthetic drugs and responses to the threats in Viet Nam’, presented at the Global SMART Programme regional workshop, Vientiane, Lao PDR, 30-31 August, 2016.

4 DAINAP.

5 SODC, ‘Viet Nam country report’, presented at the ASEAN +3 Drug Workshop on Drug Monitoring Network of the ASEAN-NARCO, 22- 24 June, 2015.

6 SODC, ‘Problems relating to ATS and responses to its threats in Viet Nam’, presented at Global SMART Programme regional meeting, Beijing, China, 16-17 September 2015.

7 SODC, “Problems relating to ATS and responses to its threats in Viet Nam”, presented at Global SMART Programme regional meeting, Beijing, China, 16-17 September 2015.

8 “Ecstasy” pills sold as ecstasy in Thailand may contain substances other than MDMA.

9 PMMA refers to para-Methoxy-N-methylamphetamine. During its 59th session in March 2015, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) decided to add PMMA to schedule I of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971.

10 mCPP refers to meta-Chlorophenylpiperazine, or 1-(3-chlorophenyl)piperazine.

11 BZP refers to 1-Benzylpiperazine.

12 TFMPP refers to 1-3(Trifluoromethylphenyl)piperazine.

13 In March 2015, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) decided to place BZP and mephedrone under international control. In March 2016, a similar decision was taken with regard to PMMA.

14 SODC, “Latest situation on synthetic drugs and responses to the threats in Vietnam”, presented at the Global SMART Programme Regional Workshop, Yangon, Myanmar, 20-21 August 2014.

15 SODC, ‘Latest situation on synthetic drugs and responses to the threats in Viet Nam’, presented at the Global SMART Programme regional workshop, Vientiane, Lao PDR, 30-31 August, 2016.

16 SODC, ‘Drugs Control in Viet Nam’, the 25th Anti-Drug Liaison Officials’ Meeting for International Cooperation (ADLOMICO), Jeju, Republic of Korea, 22-24 September 2015.

17 Ibid.

18 SODC, “Problems relating to ATS and responses to its threats in Viet Nam”, presented at the Global SMART Programme regional meeting, Beijing, China, 16-17 September 2015.

19 SODC, “Drugs Control in Viet Nam”, 25th Anti-Drug Liaison Officials’ Meeting for International Cooperation (ADLOMICO), Jeju, Republic of Korea, 22-24 September 2015.

20 Ibid.

21 SODC, “Problems relating to ATS and responses to its threats in Viet Nam”, presented at Global SMART Programme regional meeting, Beijing, China, 16-17 September 2015.

22 DAINAP; SODC, “Latest situation on synthetic drugs and responses to the threats in Viet Nam”, presented at the Global SMART Programme regional workshop, Vientiane, Lao PDR, 30-31 August, 2016.