Don’t Do Drugs in Vietnam
Drugs in Vietnam are very much illegal. Penalties for possession can be strict depending on quantity and what substance you are caught with. Possession of even a small amount of heroin for example can lead to an immediate death sentence. Recreational drugs such as marijuana however are commonly sold and consumed in areas such as the backpackers street in Saigon.
However just because you will see drugs being consumed by foreigners in Vietnam absolutely does not mean you should partake in it too! Not just for the sake of your health but also for the negative impact it leaves on Vietnamese society.
Drugs can be potent
Drugs in Vietnam can be severely potent so please exercise caution if that decision is made. Be sure to be aware of what you are taking and make sure that someone is with you at all times. Just recently 7 people died and 5 were left in a coma after taking in a substance at music festival in Hanoi. The police are still investigating what type of drug was the cause.
Go for the Balloons to get a legal fix
Laughing gas balloons are very popular throughout Vietnam and can be found at most nightclubs. If you need a quick high this is definitely the best option for you to escape any difficulty with law enforcement. They certainly do cause some damage to the brain so don’t go overboard in your fun with the balloons but they are definitely a better alternative. The high lasts for 10-20 seconds at most and avoids any serious hangovers the day after.
Penalties Can be Severe
Penalties for possession can be severe if the police do decide to interfere. However police are known to shy away from foreigners using drugs recreationally in Vietnam. The distribution is generally controlled by the mafia which most likely already has an agreement with the police.
The governance of the underground world does change quickly so do not take anything for certain. Aggressive behaviour towards recreational use recently occurred in a bar in Hanoi that received a visit from the police and ordered everyone present to take a drug test. Those who tested positive had their passports seized. Although this is far from being the norm it does show that unpredictable events can always occur.
Avoid Motorbike Dealers
You will most likely be approached a couple of dozens time by a random man on a motorbike offering you drugs during your visit to Vietnam. This is especially common in a place like Mui Ne and Hue. It is strongly advised to avoid them at all costs not just because of the annoyance that they cause, but as they usually are completely oblivious to the source and potency of the items that they are selling.
Drug Use Among Locals
Drug use among local Vietnamese is not too common. Fear of getting into trouble with authorities is generally enough for most Vietnamese to refrain from any drug use. However with the introduction to rave and EDM culture it is becoming more and more common to experiment with the traditional party drugs such as MDMA. This however tends to be much more prevalent with the entitled upper class who have the luxury to pursue self indulgent pursuits. The other social group in Vietnam that is likely to frequently use narcotics are members of the Vietnamese mafia which are growing in size and influence. The general attitude towards drugs in Vietnam however is extremely negative.
Drugs during the American-Vietnam War
Drugs were largely introduced in Vietnam during the American-Vietnamese War. According to a report made by the US Department of Defence in 1971, 51 percent of American G.I’s had smoked marijuana, 31 percent had used psychedelics such as LSD, mescaline and psilocybin mushrooms, and an additional 28 percent had taken hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. On top of the the prescription of pills was also rampant as generals believed this could boost performance. The widespread usage of drugs was in large part due to a severe breakdown in morale of the US forces and as a result of the counter culture movement occuring home.
At first marijuana was tolerated by military command but after a report written by soldier John Steinbeck VI and son of nobel prize winning author in the Washingtonian Magazine set off a media firestorm. Marijuana usage became heavily monitiered and roughly 1000 G.I’s were arrested a week for possession. This however led to the increase usage in harder drugs such as heroin as it was much harder to trace. The negative consequences of this were obvious and one army commander was quoted saying “If it would get them to give up the hard stuff, I would buy all the marijuana and hashish in the Delta as a present.”
Although the American troops eventually left the drugs in circulation remained. This the first massive introduction of drugs to Vietnamese society.
Don’t Support Illegal Behaviour in a Country you are Visiting
You are not doing anyone a favor by supporting the black market economy here. It is a good general rule to avoid purchasing illegal things in countries you are visiting. Especially in a country like Vietnam that is still very much a country in a developmental stage. Increasing the power and wealth of the underground world here is certainly not helping the ordinary citizens of Vietnam who are working tirelessly to create a brighter future for their children. Although Vietnam has made significant progress in recent years it is still plagued by corruption and purchasing drugs is definitely not helping to alleviate that problem.
Vietnam and South East Asia in general has in recent years often been seen as a place to rid yourself of your demons. This will hopefully change in the coming years as Vietnam has so much more to offer. You can party and do drugs from the comfort of your home if you wish to do so, but if you are coming to Vietnam please dont waste your time on such mindless activities.