To create awareness on substance abuse and alcohol, Changzamtog Middle Secondary School (MSS) and Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) officials notified about 400 shops in Changzamtog on the illegal sale of alcohol and controlled substances in Thimphu, yesterday.

School principal Sonam Phuntsho said that about 40 percent of students abuse one or the other substances in his school. “Last Saturday, two students were found drunk in one of the shops in Changzamtog. I got a call about the students when I was out of station and had to immediately send one of the teachers to the place.”

He said that the school caters to students who are mostly from middle-class families. “A majority of parents are not literate. We call and inform them so that we can look for solutions together.”

Teachers said students abusing thinner is common today and that they are also found abusing dendrites and tobacco.

Sonam Phuntsho said that the increasing cases might be because of its easy availability. “These things are readily available. Parents also give money to children with a good intention but there are chances of children misusing it.”

Although students are being monitored in schools, supervising every student becomes impossible, he said.

This year alone, the school had about 10 cases involving alcohol and substance abuse.

“But we do not tackle the problem with suspension or expulsion,” the principal said. “We try to deal with it positively and inform the parents. Children are asked to write statements and to identify the places they availed the substances from.”

Records with BNCA show that between January and March this year, about 47 youth were referred to the Treatment Assessment Panel.

One of the teachers, Khandu Wangmo, said that every Friday the school has a class where guest speakers inform students of the ill effects of alcohol and substance abuse.

Coinciding with the world environment day, the school fraternity along with BNCA officials also walked to the nearby shops and houses to notify and advocate on garbage disposal in the area.

In the letter that the Changzamtok school fraternity wrote to the shopkeepers and landlords, it stated that through people have been dumping garbage in the school area.

“Some shopkeepers are selling prohibited substances (alcohol and tobacco products) to our students and youth below 18 years, who are tomorrow’s productive citizens,” the letter stated.

Rinchen Zangmo