Expansion of vocational training and occupational therapy opportunities at the Somsanga Treatment and Rehabilitation
(LAO/F13 sub-project)


kick the Habit-Create a common future without ATS


Amphetamine-Type-Stimulants (ATS) have emerged as the most serious drug threat to the Lao PDR. The apparent 'spill-over' effect derived from the geographical situation of the Lao PDR  in South East Asia as a transit country has already created conditions for a potential abuse epidemic. Since the late 90's the country has been experiencing a rapidly growing rate of ATS use and addiction.  The use of Methamphetamine containing tablets (Commonly known in the country by its street name Yabaa) has been steadily increasing.

"Yabaa" is a powerful stimulant, is very addictive and is associated with more significant physical, emotional and social harms than other types of drugs.

Initially,  ATS abuse was seen mainly in to urban areas, but it is now suggested that the problem has spread throughout all the provinces.

All parts of the Lao society are affected by the ATS problem, while at the same time, drug-related issues such as HIV and AIDS and drug-related crime and violence have become an increasing concern.

The appearance of crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride - street name "Ice" - is another step towards a more powerful and harmful type of ATS as it is very likely to be relatively pure and easier to inject. Reports of heroin use by injecting have been also increasingly recorded.


The Somsanga Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, the oldest institution of its kind in the Lao PDR, was established in 1996 by the Ministry of Public Security as a detention facility for drug abusers. In 1999, Somsanga began to offer basic treatment services.  The number of patients entering Somsanga has risen substantially in the past three years with an average enrollment of 100 people a month. In 2008 there were 1682 recovering addicts in the centre, including 105 women. 938 patients were released that year.

The facility has recently undergone a significant shift from its role as a law enforcement institution towards a health-oriented facility and is under the supervision of the Vientiane Capital Mayor.

The Somsanga Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre implements project activities with the technical assistance from UNODC and isl be monitored  by the  provincial and national commissions on drug control -PCDC and LCDC-, while funding is provided by LENS (Law Enforcement and Narcotics Section of the US Embassy) as well as technical support by the DED (German Development Service) and SIF (Singapore International Foundation).

Planned Outcomes

The immediate objective is to provide a suitable basic setting for drug detoxification and rehabilitation and to implement vocational training activities.  This will help decrease the high relapse rate of the Somsanga Treatment Centre, while increasing chances of rehabilitation of former drug users.

  • The project will help recovering drug users by providing improved medical/psychological treatment, and rehabilitation opportunities.
  • Improvement of general living conditions to meet basic standards for drug detoxification and rehabilitation.
  • Set-up various long term vocational training activities to develop and enhance the labour market skills of the patients and increase their chances of future employment.
  • Implementation of occupational therapy activities that strengthen physical and mental well being of patients.
  • Strengthen the patients confidence and their opportunities to reintegrate into society through paid work.
  • Enable the drug rehabilitation workers to improve their technical skills and knowledge on the Psychosocial Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Approach.
  • The follow-up system gives discharged patients the opportunity to continuously use their learned skills in a new job or a further education project.
  • Counseling consultations for the drug addicts and their families.

___________________________The Three-Step Treatment

1. Drug Detoxification Phase

  • Lasts for about 42 days depending on the addiction level of the patient
  • Patients receive prescribed medicine and vitamins according to the withdrawal symptoms
  • Counseling consultation and psychological support treatment will be provided for the patients and their families

2. Rehabilitation Phase

  • Lasts for 3-12 months depending on the severity of the patients drug problems
  • Provision of Vocational and occupational training activities
  • Group counseling consultations

3. Follow up Phase

  • Encourage the discharged patient to reintegrate into society
  • Offer employment or further education opportunities to the ones that are willing
  • Follow up on their social and drug behavior after discharge