Addiction to drugs and alcohol is an emerging issue in Bhutan. In fact, the problem is quite serious. A recent South-East Asia report on mental health status of adolescents shows that Bhutan has the highest number of smokers in the region. About 24.2 percent of Bhutanese adolescents use alcohol. Bhutan also has the highest number of adolescents currently using marijuana.
Almost on a daily basis, young people are apprehended using or dealing drugs. Fights ensuing after excessive consumption of alcohol often land them behind the bar. Rehabilitation centres are full and cannot take in more clients. Addiction problem deepens. Rejection and stigma make the matter all the worse. Hope seems to wane away. This is the vicious circle many a life lives in.
Young people going the wrong way is expensive. It will be a great loss to the nation if they are not brought back on the right path.
Chithuen Phendey Association, a non-profit public benefit organisation was so started in 2006 as self help support group for drugs and alcohol dependent individuals. The organization was formally registered in June 2011 with recognition and financial support from His Majesty the fifth King of Bhutan. The association aims at providing inclusive support services to those affected by drugs and alcohol dependency. Today, the association aspires to become a leading organisation for drugs and alcohol response in the country. The association is mandated to deliver quality and efficient services. Treatment, aftercare, education and social integration programme are provided to substance users.
The organisation provides accessible, effective and efficient treatment. They provide rehabilitation and guidance to help alcohol and drug dependents overcome their addiction problem. They also provide post-care training, counselling and other supportive services to prevent relapses and to sustain recovery of clients. Improving quality of life and living conditions of recovering individuals is their core mandate.
Sustaining recovery and preventing relapses of the clients is the main challenge they face while providing rehabilitation services. Misconceptions and complacent nature of the society to addiction and substance users is addressed through various social integration, awareness and advocacy programmes as it continues to be their challenge. The organisation has conducted many nationwide drugs and alcohol prevention campaigns to sensitize every citizen about their role in adopting preventive solutions to this social malaise.
“You are going out as a role model, as a messenger of hope and as a representative of happiness. There shouldn’t be the conflict of integrity,” said Tshewang Tenzin, Director at Chithuen Phendey Association.
Thirteen volunteers consisting of recovering addicts and young graduates turned up for the national drug awareness campaign recently. The excursion team started bicycle ride from the capital on 14 April. They were dressed uniformly, orange vest adorned with bright yellow stripe written “SAY NO TO DRUGS AND ALCOHOL”.
The volunteers’ aim was remind every individual about their roles and responsibility to reduce drugs and alcohol abuse in the country. The campaign called for the collective responsibility to enable people to be part of society. They sensitised parents on their role to prevent their kids taking to drugs. All in all, the intent of the campaign was to encourage individuals to stand for a drug-free society.
The campaign reached out to the schools where students were very much aware about the ill effects of drugs. The campaign’s focus was beyond rehabilitation services as the solution to growing drug and alcohol problems. Advocacy and awareness programme reached workplaces to highlight the importance of preventive education as the way forward to curb drug and alcohol problem at the right time. The principal message of campaign was to make public aware addiction and related problem.
A facilitator from the organisation shared with the people that addiction is pain driven. It does not matter whether it is at physical or psychological level. When we have pain, we seek for relief. Basically, addiction is all about pain and relief. This is what the team went on showing the society.
The nationwide campaign was conducted for three months. They reached more than 50,000 people of 11 dzongkhags. The national drug awareness campaign was one of the many educative programme and interventions the organisation pioneered to promote drug- and alcohol-free Bhutan.
However, there are challenges. Sustainability and financial constraints, and lack of professional in addiction field are some of the challenges the organisation is faced with today. Even so, the association is focused on becoming nation’s leading resource centre to promote a drug- and alcohol-free society.
The association aims to become nation’s leading resource centre for promoting a drug and alcohol free GNH society by conducting various family programmes and awareness on parenting skills, prevention education on physical and psychological abuse.
Contribute towards the Drug and Alcohol free society in Bhutan.
The mission of the association is to design and enact awareness and advocacy programs in substance abuse prevention, treatment and social integration to enable drug and alcohol affected individuals to take their place in society as happy, prosperous and productive citizens.