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100 drug users escape Vietnam rehab, huge hunt starts.

In Hanoi, Vietnam, authorities are on a frantic search for nearly 100 drug users who managed to flee from an overcrowded state-owned rehabilitation center located in the Mekong Delta, as reported by state media on Monday. This incident sheds light on the challenges faced by Vietnam's efforts to address drug addiction, with over 30,000 individuals undergoing compulsory treatment at government facilities, some mandated to spend up to two years inside by law.

The rehabilitation centers in Vietnam often face issues of overcrowding, leading to suboptimal conditions for detainees. Most individuals undergo cold-turkey treatment, and instances of solitary confinement are not uncommon for rule violators. The recent escape occurred following an "internal dispute" on Saturday night, with 191 addicts breaking out of the rehab center in the southern city of Soc Trang, as reported by Cong An Nhan Dan newspaper, the official police mouthpiece.

By Monday morning, authorities managed to locate and return 94 individuals, while a significant number, approximately 100, remain at large, prompting a widespread search effort by police and families. The escapees reportedly utilized various means to flee, including breaking down dormitory doors, escaping through the main entrance, and even creating a hole in one of the facility's walls.

The chaotic escape resulted in several security guards sustaining injuries after being attacked by the fleeing detainees, further highlighting the volatile situation within the center. State media highlighted the poor infrastructure and overcrowded conditions of the facility, with only 60 guards overseeing more than 460 drug addicts, predominantly men.

While Vietnam has been exploring community-based treatment alternatives in response to criticisms of its rehabilitation centers, these facilities remain the predominant form of recovery. Despite widespread government and public support, addiction specialists argue that such centers are ineffective, with high rates of relapse.

The challenges faced by Vietnam's rehabilitation system extend beyond overcrowding, with issues such as inadequate infrastructure and equipment prevalent in many facilities, according to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs. Past incidents, such as the escape of around 200 drug users in 2018 from a rehab center in Tien Giang province, and a similar escape of 100 individuals in Long An province the year prior, underscore the systemic issues within the country's rehabilitation framework.

As authorities continue their search efforts for the escaped individuals, the incident underscores the urgent need for comprehensive reforms in Vietnam's approach to drug addiction treatment, emphasizing the importance of addressing underlying issues such as overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure, and the efficacy of rehabilitation methods.

Feb. 26, 2024 5:09 p.m. 2007

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