In recent times there has been a series of articles in the local media concerning the new choice of drug among the young people of Việt Nam – ice.
It is a familiar story the world over that a culture surrounds the availability of a new drug and in Hồ Chí Minh City, this sub-culture has developed around ice (crystal methamphetamine or in the U.S. called crystal meth).
In the UK during the rave and warehouse party culture of the late eighties/early nineties, Ecstasy came to the shores of the nation as young revelers partied for weekends at a time looking for the ultimate high and escape their normal lives.
Now all young generations over the past 50 years have experimented with a variety of drugs, with some lucky enough not to experience lasting damage.
However, while Ecstacy was seen as a party or love drug with no aggression and a more loving attitude towards groups of strangers, city doctors warn that ice is a destructive influence and has resulted in serious mental illness among users.
Some local doctors have informed that some users even threaten to kill family members and abuse and assault those close to them as the drug gets a tight grip of them and won’t let go.
One addict climbed onto rooftops chasing ghosts with a knife, while another believed he could fly like an eagle now that his ‘wings’ had grown before being hospitalized with a badly bruised body from these ‘flying’ attempts.
In Hồ Chí Minh City, ice or đá has been in town for the last five years for the new generation who also sample Ecstasy and cocaine, but ice is the drug of choice for most users.
When I say choice, that is until the drug chooses them and they cannot free themselves as their life spirals out of control, borrowing money to feed their habit, some girls even giving themselves to dealers when they have no more access to money, with worse to come if they find themselves working on the street with the increased risk of HIV or other STDs.
Ice is not cheap either, priced at around VND2.5 million for a group of three or four or five to feed their addiction for 24 hours or so.
Users are normally introduced to ice due to peer pressure, which again is part and parcel of the drug-taking scene all over the world.
One group or individual tries the new hit, and then encourages their friends to enjoy this high and before you know it all their friends are trying this new drug of choice.
But someone cannot be occasional users for fun at the weekend.
Their addictive personality, or otherwise, puts paid to fun.
The addicts gather daily as ice becomes their life with jobs, friends and family forgotten about.
Groups then become like a family as they live for their fix.
Wives and husbands threaten to leave their partners due to their obsession and addiction, and some carry out these threats.
Trịnh Tất Thắng, director of the Hồ Chí Minh City Mental Hospital once told a local newswire about a healthy young man with a beautiful wife, beautiful house, good job and nice car.
He used to enjoy drinking with friends but they encouraged him to try ice and he became addicted.
He started to get paranoid and accused his wife of sleeping with other men, and he turned their house upside down looking for evidence of her ‘affairs’.
He received hospital treatment after cutting himself, which is another symptom of ice self-harm, but his sickness would not go away and after a while he was back on ice.
According to the ốồ Chí Minh City Mental Hospital, last year they examined 800 cases of ice addicts.
They suffered from symptoms such as paranoid hallucinations, behavioral disorders and weight loss.
The hospital says that users of synthetic drugs, including ice, is likely to cause psychosis, such as hallucinations, paranoia, and the psychological impact in users such as panic, anxiety, doubt, loss of sleep, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
At the nursing center and drug rehabilitation Thanh Đa in Hồ Chí Minh City, the number of students using synthetic drugs and mentally ill students coming for treatment significantly increased in the last two years, with the number of those using drugs increasing by a third in the last 12 months.
According to medical research, in low dosages ice can increase alertness, concentration, and energy in fatigued individuals.
In higher doses, it can induce mania with accompanying euphoria, feelings of self-esteem and increased libido, putting users at the risk of sexual infection.
It has a high potential of abuse and addiction.
Dr. Nguyễn Hữu Khánh Duy, director of drug treatment at the Thanh Đa center, said the previous year the center mainly dealt with heroin addicts but now most users come in for addiction to ice.
He insists they are at risk of becoming mentally ill and suffering brain damage.
Users faced with paranoid delusions, fear, agitation, psychosis seizures, hallucinations, dry mouth, red eyes, staggering, talking to themselves, afraid of being chased, scared of other people.
It can turn a gentle, timid person extremely aggressive.
Moreover, increased use of drugs mean there is a risk of stroke due to ischemic phenomena and increased heart rate.
This group also faces a high risk of HIV infection due to sexual promiscuity.
It is not just Hồ Chí Minh City residents who are hooked on ice.
One Australian was running around the street in Tân Bình District, shouting at local people and was chased by traffic police who eventually apprehended him.
The police investigation revealed that the man had rented a local hotel room and had used ice which may have caused the changes in his behavior.
By DEREK MILROY