Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Puran has been hospitalised many times. Health officials warned him and he tried to quit drinking. Everything failed to stop him.

He remained an alcoholic for seven years.

A visit to the drop-in-centre (DIC) in Mongar, however, changed the life for the 41-year-old man. A few counselling sessions helped him to decide to go for rehabilitation.

“I tried quitting but the craving continued until I attended counselling,” he said.

It’s been a year since Puran completed the four and half months rehab period and quit drinking. “I regret wasting my time and money on alcohol,” he said.

He is now committed to giving his time to his wife and children.

Like Puran, many Mongar residents, including civil servants, corporate and private employees are benefitted from the DIC. Students and youth avail the service after police refer them through treatment assessment panel (TAP).

Police refers youth to Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency (BNCA) through the TAP programme and youth are assessed and categorized as low, moderate and high risk. While those falling under high risk are sent to rehab, those in low and moderate category are treated through outpatient counselling programme and residential programme.

Repeat offenders are given three chances, and in the fourth time, they will be referred to police and will be charged for misdemeanor with compulsory treatment and rehabilitation for one month to a year.

A youth, who stopped drinking, said alcohol almost ruined his life but he is now on track because of regular counselling and advice. He continued his study through the TAP.

A businesswoman in Mongar, whose son was arrested for drugs abuse, said that unlike the past, where students were either suspended or terminated, her son got could continue his study through the programme.

The counsellor, Tshewang Jemo, said the number of people availing the DIC service increased in recent years because of referral from TAP. It recorded 42 cases in 2019 and 48 this year as of last week. Eight people were sent to rehab.

DIC officials said the number would be higher if women come forward to seek help. They claimed women do not come because of social stigma.

The other challenge, according to them, is that many alcoholics want to go for rehabilitation but cannot because of the fees.

“We also lack temporary shelter and fooding facility,” an official said. “We refer students to school counsellors.”

Mongar DIC was established in 2010 and it’s one of the five regional DICs under Bhutan Narcotic Control Authority (BNCA). Others are in Phuntsholing, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar and Wangduephodrang. The DIC Mongar looks after five dzongkhags of Mongar, Lhuentse, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse and Bumthang.

Meanwhile, some people in Mongar, who could not quit drinking, blame free availability of alcohol.