Youth in focus: My son has been sleeping late, has mood swings and sometimes acts strangely. This has been happening for over two years. Also, I notice money is going missing from our house. I’m sure that he is using drugs, but he denies it. How can I be sure and, if he is into drugs, what is the next step? I really want to help him.

Worried parent, Thimphu

Well, unless you catch someone red handed, you can never be 100 percent sure that they are into drugs, but there are definite signs that indicate when someone is using.

Mood swings and sleeping late are common traits of a drug abuser, but they can also indicate depression. However, combined with missing cash and erratic behaviour I’d make an educated guess that your son is using drugs.

You can try to calmly discuss your concerns with your son, adding that you just want to help him. If he is tired of his life-style, it is possible that he will open up, though, to be honest, it is unlikely. A quick way to confirm doubts is to check his clothing and cupboards. If you find tablets or hash, then his abuse is proven and you have saved months of talk. Popular tablets are SP, which is a blue capsule, and N10, which is a white tablet with ‘N10’, stamped into each individual tablet.

You can also approach some of his friends who are close to you. They might be willing to tell you the truth if you promise not to disclose their names and make it clear that you just want to help your son.

Still, even if you confirm without a doubt that he is using, he will probably not admit that he is an addict. In this case, it would be best to get help. I’m always willing to talk to anyone who is having drug issues. Also, you can contact a local DIC. Otherwise, you can request a recovering addict of similar age to your son to talk with him. As it seems that he has been using for a number of years, he will need to go to rehab.

Actually, it is sad that some parents put social status above their child’s welfare and discourage their children from going to rehab. They pretend that their offspring is not so addicted and try to convince them that a job or a solid relationship will be enough for their child to quit. When a parent acts in this way, they not only fail their children badly but also put them at risk of overdose and death. Drug-use is not a joke! Personally, I tell parents to be honest with their family and friends about their child’s drug-use. They can say something like this: “I was heartbroken when I discovered that my son was using drugs, but I love him dearly and am really proud that he has the courage to go to rehab. I strongly support his efforts to get clean.” Anyway, it appears that you want your son to get treatment and so this is not an issue for you.

Now, even if your son admits that he has been using for some years, he may try to convince you (and himself) that he can quit without rehab treatment. He will promise to get a job and change his lifestyle, but it will not work. In reality, addiction can be compared to toothache. No one can stop toothache by himself or herself. It is not their fault and is not a sign of weakness, but is the nature of the disease. Toothache needs professional help and the longer a person delays getting treatment, the worse it gets. Addiction is similar. In the case of toothache, professional help means a dentist. In the case of addiction, it means rehab. To help persuade him to get treatment, request some guys who have been to rehab to talk with him.

After rehab, your son needs to strictly follow the narcotics anonymous (NA) programme. Basically, entering rehab is similar to visiting a doctor to treat an ailment like hypertension or diabetes. The doctor will prescribe a lifestyle that keeps the disease in check, but if it is not followed the disease will resurface. NA is the same. If a recovering addict does not follow the programme, he’ll relapse. In short, rehab treatment is a necessary first step to quitting drugs. However, it is not a magic wand that eradicates addiction, but a programme that teaches the user how to stay clean – but it has to be followed to work.

 Recommended drug-related resource centres: 

DICs (for advice on addiction):

YDF, Thimphu: (02) 333-303

Chithuen Pendhey, Thimphu/Paro: (02) 333-111

Jakar: (03) 631-627

Mongar: (04) 641-217

Rehabs (for treatment of addiction):

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

Sahayata Rehab, Siliguri (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.

Email to for any queries


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