Training: The number of youth abusing controlled substances increased by more than 10 times in the last 14 years, records with Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency (BNCA) show.

Of the 4,227 youth arrested for their involvement in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance offences between 2001 and 2014, about 4,039 are males.

The number of arrests recorded between July 2013 and March last year was 599, compared to 59 arrests recorded in 2001.

To reduce mental health and substance abuse related problems among youth, Chithuen Phendhey Association (CPA) organised a training on substance abuse prevention, education and intervention over the past three days in Thimphu. CPA is a non-profit public benefit organisation that deals with drug and alcohol affected people in the country.

A total of 60 Sherubtse college and high school students from various schools in Thimphu participated in training.

Going by the occupation of the offenders arrested, unemployed tops the list at 1,496, followed by 1,276 students, 331 private employees, 116 civil servants and 15 monks.

BNCA’s deputy chief programme officer, Dorji Tshering shared with the students that the most commonly abused substance is marijuana because it is easily accessible.

Before 2009, people resorting to injection drug users (IDU) were rare but not anymore, he added.

“When people are too much dependent on drugs, they resort to IDU which is much more harmful and dangerous because of high risk of transferring infections like HIV,” Dorji Tshering said.

According to National Baseline Assessment on Drugs and Controlled Substance use in Bhutan (NBA) 2009, a study jointly conducted by the BNCA and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), abuse and illicit trafficking of pharmaceutical drugs in the country is on the rise.

Alcohol is a legal drug and the increasing rate of alcohol abusers among youth is also a growing concern, he said.

The Champion 60 project is a pilot project that will work with the 60 participants by training them to become peer councilors and educators in their respective schools.

CPA’s executive director, Tshewang Tenzin said the organisation initiated the project so that participants can reach out to alcohol or drug dependent youth and motivate them to seek treatment and rehabilitation.

The participants were briefed on drug information, substance abuse education, intervention and counseling skills, and mental health, among others.

Dechen Tshomo