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Drug abuse in Vietnam: a critical review of the literature and implications for future research


Van T. Nguyen, Doctoral Candidate, School of Social Work, University of Texas at Arlington, 211 S. Cooper Street, Box 19129, Arlington, TX 76019, USA. E-mail:


Aims  To provide an overall picture of drug abuse in Vietnam, its prevalence, correlates and patterns.

Methods  Studies addressing the drug abuse problem in Vietnam are reviewed. Attention is paid to studies conducted from 1993 onwards. The reviewed studies were collected from both refereed and non-refereed sources.

Results  Drug abuse is rising sharply in Vietnam: almost threefold over the past 10 years. From a predominantly rural-mountainous phenomenon, illicit drug abuse spread rapidly to urban areas. Meanwhile, the average age of drug users has declined and more women have been engaging in drug consumption. At the same time, heroin has replaced opium as the most preferred drug in the country's illicit drug market, especially among young users in urban areas. At the national level, the second main route of drug administration, injecting, has exceeded smoking and taken precedence in the country's drug abuse culture, especially among heroin users.

Conclusion  Drug abuse in Vietnam has changed radically over the past decade, which has implications for the national and international community and requires further research to fill the knowledge gap and to inform intervention policy for better drug control policy.