The findings will help in the creation of a prevention and treatment programme

Survey: To determine drug use patterns in Bhutan, the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA), in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will conduct a National Drug Use Survey starting this month.

Besides estimating the prevalence of drug use other than tobacco and alcohol in Bhutan, the study is also expected to assess the extent, pattern and profile of people who use drugs.

It is also expected to determine the risk factors associated with drug use and service uptake by the drug using community.

It will also assess the social and health consequences of drug use.

BNCA director general, Phuntsho Wangdi, said that rapid development in the country including easier and faster connectivity, increased migration to the urban centres and immigration to other countries, among others, may have contributed to the changing drug scenario with new drugs and patterns of use.

There is a need to find out what new drugs are being used in the country and services availed by the abusers. “The study is a high priority. The survey will help the authority to develop appropriate strategies for a drug prevention and treatment programme,” Phuntsho Wangdi said.

Some 80 university graduates and 40 peer counselors and recovering drug users were provided a two-day training on data enumeration on October 2.

Dorji Tshering said that the enumerators were also taught basic interviewing skills including how to ask open-ended questions.

The study will be conducted in all the dzongkhags through community-based surveys mainly targeting drug users in the community, prison inmates and ex-convicts. A school-based survey of students from classes seven to 12 will also be conducted.

However, the school survey will be conducted only in nine selected dzongkhags having low, moderate and high prevalence of drug use. Thimphu, Chukha and Sarpang have high drug use prevalence. Paro, Wangdue and Samdrupjongkhar have a moderate prevalence of drug users while Tsirang, Bumthang and Mongar have low prevalence of drug users.

To begin with, as field-testing, data collection will start in Paro from next week and then spread out to other dzongkhags.

BNCA deputy chief programme officer, Dorji Tshering said that the nine dzongkhags have been selected based on the 2009 national baseline survey and records with the police.

Dorji Tshering said that the authority is hopeful that the survey findings will help the authority come up with appropriate interventions to help prevent young people from initiating substance abuse, and prevent those who have initiated drug abuse from developing dependence and addiction to controlled substances.

The National Baseline Assessment of Drugs and Controlled Substance use in Bhutan (NBA) conducted in 2009, was the first systematic effort to document the size of the drug using population and drug use patterns in the country.

According to the assessment, use of cannabis and glue-sniffing was reported from 14 dzongkhags. These dzongkhags were selected for the study because the media and health care system reported cases.

Pharmaceuticals use like codeine-containing cough syrup, benzodiazepine and nitrazepam tablets, among others, was reported from all the dzongkhags except Zhemgang.

Meanwhile, smoking of brown sugar was reported from Bumthang, Paro, Samdrupjongkhar, Samtse, Trashigang and Thimphu, within the last one month.

The survey was conducted with funding support from Global Fund.

Dechen Tshomo

*information about data enumeration was added to the online version