Drug abuse and illicit trafficking of controlled substances (cannabis and pharmaceutical opioids) are among the growing issue in the country today.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk rightly said that this rising youth problem must be urgently addressed and has called for heightened role of parents and teachers. Parents and teachers can and should work hand in hand, yes, but that is not enough. What we need is a clear and strong strategy to cut the supply lines.

This social malaise, if not addressed early on, will not only destroy the lives of the young but also put pressure on the economy and social harmony.

It is time we really got down to working how to keep our children away from drugs. Campaigns and awareness programmes do little. Maybe we ought to look at other more practicable solutions. We can no longer argue around numbers and let the matter pass because our young people today are going through rough times. Fuelled by growing youth unemployment, many are disillusioned and take to drugs for some comfort and solace. Close to 5,000 students were reported abusing drugs last year. It is a significant number.

In the years to come, unemployment situation will only grow. Every year, young people by thousands enter the job market. While we can create only limited number of jobs at any given time, unemployment situation, particularly youth unemployment, will continue to aggravate. The changing societal and family values add to the problem. In the cities and bigger town particularly, parents seem to have little time for their children. While the ultra-modern parents go about chasing their small pleasures day in and out, children turn to the myriad distractions in the dingy gullies and alleyways.

Of course, it is largely the responsibility of parents to guide their children as they are growing up, but parental guidance alone will not suffice. We are in it all together. If we can cut the supply lines by way of stringent interventions and open our young people to productive engagement, we can easily halve our youth-related problems. If increasing sentence for illicit trafficking of controlled substances is necessary, so be it.

What we now know is that drug traffickers have abandoned the Jaigaon-Phuentsholing-Thimphu supply route because it is not safe anymore; many seem to take a detour through Gelephu. Here is the lesson. We can cut the trafficking lines from wherever they come. We need only will to do so. Because it is the lives of our children that’s at stake, we should.