More than 80 percent of people with a history of recreational drug use in Vietnam claim to have been influenced by peer pressure when they first became involved with the addictive substances, according to statistics from Ho Chi Minh City police.
C., a 58-year-old mother in District 8, Ho Chi Minh City, said her son fell victim to narcotics after he was convinced by his “friends” in the crime-ridden neighborhood to try the harmful drug for the first time during his college years.
“Groups of drug addicts would frequent our alley at night, disturbing residents and robbing passers-by for money to afford their addiction,” she said.
Once her son had got himself addicted to narcotics, he would often threaten to set their house ablaze if his demands for drug-buying money were not met.
Although her son has gone to rehab centers and successfully got rid of his addiction, he is still not left alone by his old “friends” who still drop by their house every now and then to try and convince him into rejoining their gang.
|Three drug addicts use narcotics in this crime scene replication. Photo: Police|
P., a former drug addict in District 9, said he is one of the few who are fortunate enough to have completely distanced themselves from the forgettable past.
Over a year ago, when P. had just graduated from college, he started running an online shop, a job that required a wide network of social relationships.
It was only a matter of time before P. started abusing ecstasies during his nights out with friends, after being called a “farm boy” for refusing to take the drugs.
One thing led to another, P. eventually got involved with narcotics after a party at one of his friends’ house.
“After that point, I was aware that I had become addicted, but I couldn’t help spending much of my money on the ‘trips’, which greatly affected my business,” P. said.
Fortunately for P., he came to his senses in time and sought help from an eastern medicine doctor, who helped him get over his addiction, and cut off all contact with his old friends to avoid being tempted again.
|Two drug addicts help each other take a narcotics injection at a neighborhood in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
According to Ho Chi Minh City police, over 2,700 suspects were prosecuted for narcotics-related crimes in 2017 and the first six months of 2018 in Ho Chi Minh City.
There are around 23,000 known drug addicts profiled in the city’s official records, accounting for ten percent of Vietnam’s total number of junkies.
Although “tempting others into using narcotics” has long been criminalized in Vietnam under an article in the 1999 Penal Code, it was only last month that the very first suspect charged with such a crime stood trial at a court in Ho Chi Minh City.
On August 23, the People’s Court of Binh Tan District sentenced a 24-year-old man to a combined nine years and six months behind bars for “tempting others into using narcotics," “transportation of narcotics," and “stockpiling narcotics."
The convict reportedly swayed two others into trying narcotics for the first time during house parties in March, insisting that the drugs were not addictive, according to his indictment.
|People were caught using narcotics at a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City during a police raid in May 2018. Photo: Police|
A narcotics crimes investigator under Ho Chi Minh City police said the reason why it was only recently that authorities were able to prosecute the first case of the crime after nearly 20 years was due to vague wording in previous versions of the Penal Code.
In the 1999 Penal Code, “forcing and tempting others into using narcotics” were criminalized under the same article, without clear definitions of what constituted “forcing” or “tempting."
As such, police had to either look for evidence of “organizing the use of narcotics," which carried harsher penalties, or drop the case if not enough evidence was found.
It was not until the 2017 Penal Code came into effect on January 1, 2018 that the crime of “tempting others into using narcotics” was written in a separate article where it was clearly defined as “the act of asking, seducing, persuading or through other means convincing…”