A number of new synthetic recreational drugs have been flooding Vietnam in the past few years. Figures from Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security showed there were about 223,000 recreational drug users in 2017, 12,000 more than the previous year, VN Express reported.

Synthetic drugs called bath salt as well as ecstasy are now popular, while in recent years newer drugs are being made in the country. In 2018, 559 types of recreational drugs were recorded.

That number was at 292 only three years earlier.

Hoang Vinh Bao, an official from the National Committee on AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention and Control, said HIV and other infections were also possible by-products of new drugs.

Some of the new drugs, according to a Ministry of Public Security official, were created to maximize profits and to have extended effects. The drugs are also easier to conceal from authorities.

In a previous media report, it was revealed that about 1,600 people die from overdosing on drugs every year in Vietnam. Also, about US$93.7 million was spent on purchasing drugs every year. Rehab institutions use about US$44.6 million to continue operation.

Vietnam is known to be a hub for drug trafficking, even with its harsh penalties. In the country’s legal system, the maximum penalty for drug-related crimes is the death penalty, depending on the volume involved in the offense.