The number of heavy drinkers in Thailand has reportedly been on a decline since 2014. The Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth), the key agency responsible for discouraging heavy drinking, is now rolling out a temple stay program to further dissuade people from excessive alcohol consumption.
Rungarun Limhaphan, a bureau director at ThaiHealth, delivered the opening speech for a conference on the lessons learned from previous initiatives to enlist the participation of local communities in curbing alcohol consumption and reaching out to alcoholics.
Rungarun said that based on data from the National Statistical Office, 5.7 million people engaged in at least one instance of heavy drinking in 2021. This accounted for about 10% of the population – a significant drop from 14% in 2014.
According to the ThaiHealth representative, reports on the results of screening and treatment for alcoholics this year indicated that 65% of people with a drinking problem are receiving care from health facilities. This means there remains a large number of people who either did not have access to therapy or were unwilling to approach the healthcare system about their drinking problems.
Realizing this, ThaiHealth is working with monks, community leaders, and volunteers to add a new channel for those with drinking problems to access therapy. Participating communities will be provided tools and evaluation forms so they can follow up on the progress of individuals seeking rehabilitation. Under this approach, care recipients will stay at a temple for six days and seven nights to learn about the dangers of alcohol consumption while receiving Buddhist Dhamma lessons.
According to Rungarun, this approach has helped people with drinking problems at pilot communities curb the amount of alcohol they consumed.