It is known as “the last Shangri-La” — a remote Himalayan nation, rich in natural beauty and Buddhist culture, where national happiness is prioritised over economic growth.
But urban youngsters in the kingdom of Bhutan are quick to challenge its rosy reputation.
“We can see the people are not happy,” said Jigme Wangchuk, a social worker and recovered drug addict in the capital Thimphu, where he works at a drop-in centre for young substance abusers.
“We are facing so many challenges, where many people are suffering,”.
Drinking, especially home-brewed rice wine, has long been part of Bhutanese culture, but alcohol liver disease has become one of the top killers at Thimphu’s main hospital, a National Statistics Bureau report said last year.
Increasing drug abuse by young people, especially of pharmaceuticals, has also become a major concern as modernisation takes hold in what was one of the world’s most isolated countries for centuries.
The kingdom only allowed foreign tourists in 1974, television in 1999 and democracy in 2008. But the traditional social fabric is starting to show the strain.