Nepal Drug Abuse and Treatment

city view in Nepal

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal lies nestled along the base of the Himalayan Mountains. To the north lies Tibet and to the south, India. Nepal is home to eight of the ten highest peaks in the world, including Everest.

Like many other countries, serious addiction problems have only recently come to Nepal. Cannabis and alcohol have been used by Nepalese for centuries but were part of the social norm and ceremonies. These substances and others did not create widespread addiction and social problems until the last few decades.

As more Westerners visited the area in the 1960s, trade in illicit drugs began to increase. Now there is an ample supply of prescription drugs to abuse, opium is grown in southern Nepal, precursor chemicals are imported from India to create synthetic drugs, and cannabis, which grows wild in northern parts of the country, is cultivated in the south to feed appetites within the country and in India. Opiates enter the country from Southeast Asian points of manufacture. And alcohol consumption has soared along with these changes to illicit drug trafficking.

Alcohol Abuse Statistics Increase Nine-Fold

A graph of alcohol consumption from the 1970s to the present shows a startling picture of increased consumption. In the 1970s, alcohol consumption averaged about one-tenth of a liter of pure alcohol per person, per year. After 1982, the graph skyrockets through the end of the millennium. The first few years of the new millennium saw a slight drop in alcohol use.

This increase coincides with changes in laws and business that enabled a high volume of cheap alcohol to flow into stores and homes. In addition, as much as 40 million liters of alcohol per year, both beers (called Jand or Chyang) and distilled spirits (Raski), are manufactured in homes. One study estimated that home-brewed alcohol consumption may be five times the consumption of purchased alcohol.

Alcohol is acknowledged to be the cause of domestic violence, child abuse, indebtedness and other problems, but national surveys on addiction do not include alcohol unless the alcohol addict is in a drug rehab for treatment of alcoholism along with a secondary drug. This is because the use of alcohol is part of the social norm, despite the destruction its overuse causes.

Alcohol treatment centers are in short supply in Nepal. In the capital city of Kathmandu, 200 people each year receive alcohol abuse treatment. However, no treatment centers providing alcohol treatment will accept women.

One report estimated that between 15 and 30 percent of those visiting medical hospitals were there for direct or indirect alcohol-related conditions. A doctor at Patan Hospital estimated that the threat from alcohol abuse was fifteen times worse than that of drugs.

Government Surveys Provide an Incomplete Picture

Besides not surveying for alcohol consumption, government surveys do not include cannabis (marijuana) consumption in their figures unless those addicted to the drug are in a drug rehab for addiction to cannabis and other drugs together. The main drugs surveyed were cocaine, heroin, LSD, medical/prescription drugs, morphine, buprenorphine, propoxyphene and inhalants such as glue.

This survey, done in 12 cities and then extrapolated into estimates for the entire country, found that 46,000 people in Nepal are drug users. More than 17,000 of the country’s addicts are found in Kathmandu’s valley. Twenty-two percent of those addicted are said to be less than 20 years of age.

The government survey also stated that 93 percent of the addicts are male. But other reports indicate that the acknowledged number of female addicts tends to be suppressed for social reasons. When a girl or woman is addicted, the family may conceal the problem so they can still find her a husband. When boys are addicted, they may take to selling drugs to support their habits, but girls and women may turn to prostitution.

Estimates from non-governmental organizations have come up with radically different figures for the total number of drug users as well. The Executive Director of Narconon Nepal states that the number of addicts in Nepal totals 150,000 and that 64 percent of addicts are young people. Nine hundred to 1200 of these addicts are children on the streets of Kathmandu.

Street Children Have No Escape from Addiction

Children may turn to the streets when they are abandoned by their families, orphaned or when they are beaten at home. Most street children are male and they are at great risk for physical and sexual abuse. They make their money begging, rag-picking or taking peoples’ garbage away.

Many of these children inhale the glue fumes as a way of staving off hunger and obliterating their misery. Glue-sniffing may occur in groups, with reluctant boys being forced to participate by the others, despite their fears of addiction. Dentrite, the most common glue used, can cause chest pain and hallucinations. A group of 12 children may go through eight tubes of Dendrite each day.

Narconon Nepal

The Narconon Nepal drug rehabilitation center has been saving lives for several years, both in the city of Katmandu and now in a large facility in a rural area.  On a mountaintop overlooking the tallest mountains in the world sits this beautiful facility.  Each person coming to this center for recovery finds himself in a safe, clean and protected space and has the has the support he needs and a time-tested program that can help him walk all the way back to lasting sobriety.

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