Police apprehended 2,190 drug abusers in the last four years

With the police estimating there to be around 11,000 drug abusers in the country, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said it is everyone’s responsibility to address the problem of drug abuse in the country and not just the government’s.

During the Meet the Press session on April 14, Lyonchoen said drug abuse is a reality and an issue that has been discussed at the Parliament. He said there are laws and rules in place and that relevant laws were revised during the second parliament because the government is concerned about the growing number of controlled substance abusers in the country.

Lyonchoen said the priority is advocacy. “We have to tell our people and our youth that abusing drugs is risky, not good, and that it is illegal,” he said.

Police apprehended 2,190 drug abusers in the last four years. Lyonchoen said that the arrests are a result of random inspections and tip-offs about drug carriers and drug abusers in the country. However, he said that arresting drug abusers alone is not enough and that the government is looking at providing those caught with legal assistance to represent them in court and to ensure that they don’t end up in jail because of a small mistake.

Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA), the Prime Minister informed, is introducing a policy to require all abusers to undergo compulsory rehabilitation treatment and that the authority will also build additional treatment centres, Lyonchoen added.

“This is what the government can do and is doing,” he said. “If we take the attitude that drug abuse is a problem in the country and the government has to sort it out, it’s not going to be sorted out,” Lyonchoen said. “Rather if we say our youth are abusing drugs and we collectively must put an end to it, then we can solve this.”

Lyonchoen said society and parents in particular must understand the reality of drug abuse and must come together to address drug abuse in the country. He said the government is doing a lot in schools on the drug issue. “We are taking drug abuse in our schools seriously and that is why middle and higher secondary, and central schools have guidance counsellors,” he said.

The counsellors support students, look out for any potential abusers and reach out to them so as to prevent the vulnerable students from experimenting with drugs and becoming drug abusers, Lyonchoen added.

With full time wardens and matrons in boarding and central schools, incidences of drug abuse will decline, he said. Lyonchoen cited the education ministry launching a special programme in Dechencholing Higher Secondary School (DHSS) in Thimphu recently in collaboration with Thimphu thromde, Royal Bhutan Police, Royal Body Guard, BNCA and parents.

“The stakeholders said they would together tackle the drug problem in the school,” Lyonchoen said. “There is a concerted effort going on in DHSS and we are going to ensure that the incidence of drug abuse is, if possible eliminated from DHSS.”

The same programme will be replicated in schools throughout the country, he said and urged parents, children and society to take this threat seriously. “Let us all fulfil our responsibilities of bringing up the next generation that is healthy and productive,” he said.

Dechen Tshomo