Nima | Gelephu

In Gelephu, the number of people seeking treatment and support services related to substance use disorder (SUD) has decreased almost by half in the last two years.

From more than 10 people visiting the centre for counselling, detox treatment, and follow-up in one day, just about three clients visit the centre for support service in Gelephu today.

Officials from Drop-in Centre (DIC) in Gelephu say the number of people suffering from SUD would have increased in Sarpang, but only a few people are seeking treatment and support services.

DIC-in-charge, Hemnath Layo Monger, said that most of the youth had switched to using alcohol in place of psychotropic substances in the past two years.

“Stronger drugs were not easily available, as the borders were sealed. The restrictions are lifted now and alcohol is widely available. The risk of youth getting addicted to alcohol use is high,” he said.

He added that the centre worked in collaboration with schools, police, and parents to provide timely service and treatment to those affected by SUD in the past.

“The treatment service and referral service for chronic users were available easily. The centre helped those in the initial stage with counselling and detox treatment,” said Hemnath Layo Monger.

Health officials providing treatment in Gelephu hospital were engaged in Covid-19 responses. Treatment and counselling service was irregular as the dzongkhag was placed under frequent lockdowns.

“We come to know about the youth facing substance abuse issues only when they come in conflict with laws. By then, the treatment and support service is delayed,” said Hemnath Layo Monger.

The centre is yet to resume referral services for the people in need of rehab treatment.

A recovering addict from Gelephu said the treatment and support system was better before the pandemic. “There are still recovering addicts in need of help. But, we don’t have access to treatment service today,” he said.

He added that recovering addicts came together to support those in need of counselling and rehabilitation service.

“We meet at least once a week. We share our experience and counsel the people in the early stage of SUD. We also help financially for the rehab treatment,” he said.

More than 10 clients came voluntarily for counselling and detox treatment daily; at least two clients were sent for rehabilitation a week before the pandemic.

“There are people in need of counselling and treatment services, but they are not coming forward. This negligence would result in a chronic problem. Youth are more vulnerable,” said Hemnath Layo Monger.

The centre provided treatment and important services only within Sarpang and Gelephu in the last two years.