Purpose: Substance abuse has become a major health issue in Thailand, contributing to high numbers of premature deaths and requiring considerable expenditure on treatment and rehabilitation programs. The purpose of this paper is to explore use of Vipassana meditation to reduce depression and improve empathy and self-awareness in drug dependent women at a rehabilitation centre. Design/methodology/approach: Mixed methods were employed. Data were collected in a randomised controlled trial and focus group interviews with 24 intervention subjects and 22 controls. Findings: Findings showed no significant differences in depression, empathy or mindfulness levels between intervention and control groups, but intervention subjects had a small decline in depression at one-month follow up. The focus group interviews showed that drug users had developed self-awareness, moral values and greater understanding of right and wrong acts. Originality/value: Findings suggest that Vipassana meditation which is cultural appropriate for Thai culture and religion, should be incorporated into treatments in rehabilitation centres to increase successful outcomes.