Former Drug abusers talk of challenges due to policies, practices and discrimination

On 12 July 2023, the Chithuen Phendhey Association (CPA) held an Active Network Workshop, aiming to address the challenges confronted by individuals affected by drug laws and policies, discrimination and post-restoration difficulties.

In order to create awareness and mobilize support for these individuals, the workshop voiced the challenges and issues related to treatments received as drug abuser and even after recovery. Most of the participants shared that they get badly treated or in some cases, totally abandoned by the family members, friends and even policy makers from whom they expect the outmost support. And this has pushed them to suicidal thoughts, as they feel uncared for and unwelcomed in society.

One of the participants said, “I attempted suicide many times, but my instincts told me I shouldn’t give up.”

She expressed her gratitude to the CPA for always being there for her, even at times when her parents and family members gave up on her. “CPA has convinced me that addiction is curable and I, too, deserve to be treated as same as any other person,” she added.

Participants mentioned that they have difficult time after serving prison term as they do not get the security clearance, which is needed to apply for employments. With no job and income to survive, they are left with no other option than to get back to substance and alcohol use and related mental disorders.

Participants also shared the criminal injustice they encounter as substance and alcohol abuser. Though the law enforcers are making efforts to combat the drug use, still the participants said that they should ask the abusers on how they got into addiction as various reasons are there, and as such they said there is communication gap.

“We are not given chance to even speak for ourselves and it creates a disheartening scene in my mind, we feel like there is no one to listen to our problems and that we have committed a serious crime,” one shared.

A few of the participants shared some cases where even after admitting to the crime, they still get physically abused. They also mentioned that they are even judged upon physical appearances. One of the participants shared that once an official enquired him whether he was using substance just based on his appearance.

One of the participants said, “I was terminated from the school after being caught abusing drugs.” He shared that during that time he was in Class 11, and after his termination, others schools were not willing to enroll him with the case he had. “With no one to guide me and being a dropout, I had no other option then to continue using substance and it got worse,” he added.

Officials from Legal Aid Center, Bhutan National Law Institute shared insights on legal aid center and its services for the participants to avail in times of need. They also presented on legal protection and legal rights of individuals.

CPA said that more similar workshops will be conducted as a follow up in the up-coming days.

The primary objective of the workshop was to provide a supportive platform for key affected individuals to voice their concerns, share their experiences and seek collective solutions. By building a support network, the aim was to empower participants and mobilize support to actively engage in addressing pressing national issues related to drug use, youth crimes and mental health.

The workshop aimed to establish an inclusive and supportive environment where participants could connect, share experiences and form a network with individuals who have faced similar challenges.

The association endeavor to advocate for policy changes that address the concerns raised by workshop participants. Through promoting fairness, justice and evidence-based approaches in drug laws and policies, they aimed to make effective positive changes.

Furthermore, they seek support from legal authorities that their rights are upheld and they receive equal treatment under the law.

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a treatable mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to their inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal drugs, alcohol or medications.

Many who develop a substance use problem have depression, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or another mental problem.

CPA is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), established in 2013.

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