I recently discovered that my son has been using drugs for around 4 years. He tells me that he has tried to stop many times, but gets withdrawal and craving and then starts using again. Some friends have advised me to send him to rehab, but I feel that if I just help him get a regular job and keep an eye on him, he’ll be able to stop. What does lama think? Also, why are so many youth using drugs these days? 

TP, Thimphu

If your son had been using drugs for a few weeks or even a few months, then getting a job and maintaining a regular life-style might work, but four years of drug abuse is a long time (and if your son tells you four, I’m guessing it is five or more) and so I would presume that he is addicted to the substances that he uses. Consequently, he will need professional help.

You see, once a person has become an addict, his or her drug-use is no longer just a habit but has become a disease and, like all diseases, it requires skilled intervention. As an example, think of addiction like toothache. Whether a person gets a job, has strong will power or receives intense pressure from his family, it will not eliminate the toothache.  It is not the fault of the person with the toothache. It is the nature of the disease. It requires professional help. Nothing else will work.

It is the same with addiction. Getting a regular job or receiving pressure or even threats will not result in an addict quitting drugs. I n the case of toothache, professional help means a trip to the dentist. For addiction, that help is rehab treatment.

Still, rehab is not a magic wand. It does not eliminate addiction, but teaches a programme that an addict needs to follow. In this respect, it is similar to a doctor’s advice for a disease such as diabetes or hypertension. If you follow the advice, then there is a good chance that the disease will not manifest. If you ignore the advice, then the disease will return and you will be back to square one. In short, the person with hypertension will again have sky high BP, and the addict will be back to popping SP or N10.

Anyway, to return to your question, I strongly recommend that you send your son for rehab treatment. Until he is has stopped using drugs and knows how to stay clean, getting a job or even continuing with education will be futile and is doomed to failure. Rehab is the foundation on which to rebuild the life of an addict.

Regarding the second part of your question, well, nothing develops from a single source, but is the result of many causes and conditions. As an example, think of the prevalence of drug-use to the infestation of weeds. The primary source of the weeds is the seeds, but these alone are insufficient for the grass to grow. It also requires water, heat, and nutrition. For addiction, there can be a number of primary causes, but, like the weeds, they require other conditions for them to develop.

From my observations, I would say that broken families and lack of parental guidance is the primary cause of youth starting to take drugs these days. Obviously, an addict should not use broken families as an excuse to take drugs, but statistically I would say that it is a major reason.

Peer pressure, teenage rebellious spirit, inability to face problems, and trying to look cool are perhaps the most common contributing factors. Genetics can also be a major cause of addiction, but without contributing conditions genetics alone would not spark substance dependence.

With regard to getting help, I am personally always ready to assist anyone with drug problems. In addition, there are several drop-In-centres (offering advice on addiction) and reputable rehabs in the region:


YDF, Thimphu: (02) 333-303          

Chithuen Pendhey, Thimphu: 

(02) 333-111

Jakar: (03) 631-627

Mongar: (04) 641-217

P/ling: 1768029      


Nazhoen Pelri Rehab Centre (YDF), Thimphu:  admission only after attending hospital detox programme. 

Sahayata Rehab, Siliguri: detox at rehab, mostly Bhutanese clients (+91) 9609996661 

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.


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