… 3,681 recovering addicts have been through here

YK Poudel 

In the face of rising substance abuse cases nationwide, the Happiness Centre in Phuentsholing has been instrumental in aiding the recovery of 3,681 individuals struggling with addiction since its establishment in February 2019.

Thirteen clients are availing the service at the centre including two females. The age groups of the recovering addicts range between 10 and 70 years. 

Determined to make a difference in the lives of others, 45-year-old Bhup Dhoj Ghalley from Samtse started the centre as the Project Director. 

Currently, there are 13 recovering addicts at the service

The centre located in Phuentsholing has been sustaining for six years now, providing post-treatment services to individuals with Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) and Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs). “However, the centre is facing challenges with inadequate funds,” said Bhup Dhoj Ghalley.

“There is no exact record yet for the past three years we have been investing through our small sources and raising funds,” he said.

According to him, locals and sponsors have been supporting the centre with ration, vegetables, clothes and some amount is managed from the cafe owned by the centre. “For example, we are currently coordinating the Himalayan Beats Music Festival under the Nazhoen Lamtoen to raise some amount. This way, we have some seed funds for the programmes planned,” he said.

The centre is in the thromde area identified to be developed in the 13th Plan so it has to be relocated. “The location of the centre is near the border where various kinds of drugs are available. So the relapse rate is high. If the centre is here, we can stay focussed and reach out to more,” he said. 

The centre has five staff some of whom are recovering addicts and peer counsellors. 

Bhup Dhoj Ghalley said that Bhutan lacks policies that assist people recovering from SUDs and AUDs. “The Narcotics Act 2018 has to be revisited with effective reintegration programmes such as capacity building and skills development programmes for the recovering addicts,” he said.

Ghalley said that in Bhutan if the government wants to improve the issues of substance abuse and illegal business, adequate investment has to be made on the recovering addicts who are coming forward. “The policymakers have to view SUD and AUD as a medical health issue rather than criminalising the survivor,” he said. “Aftercare facilities and acceptance in the society is limited, this is one of the main causes of relapse and crimes.”

Happiness Centre is affiliated with Nazhoen Lamtoen, supported by Phuentsholing Thromde, RBP, the local business community of Phuentsholing, and recovering members.

According to the record with the police, the recorded cases increased to 1,566 in 2023 from 761 in 2022. In 2021, the police reported only 331 cases of substance abuse.