Going by the number of referral cases to rehabilitation centres every month, there is a need to establish more rehabilitation centres in the country. Serbithang in Thimphu and Samzang in Paro are the only two centres we have yet, but together they are able to take in only about three clients each every three months. Every month, however, at least six clients require help of rehabilitation centres.

According to Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA), the number of clients who have to undergo compulsory treatment and rehabilitation for not less than three months in an ‘approved treatment centre’ is twice the number the centres can take in. Since the endorsement of Narcotic Drugs, Psychoactive Substance and Substance Abuse (NDPSSA) Act, police have referred 330 clients to the Treatment Assessment Panel (TAP).

Of course, not everyone apprehended for substance abuse offence and those referred to the TAP will require treatment in a rehabilitation centre. Clients are referred to a rehabilitation centre only if he or she is found dependent on controlled substances. Otherwise, they are referred to drop-in centres for counselling. But we cannot bank on the effectiveness of drop-in centres. Last month alone, the RBP referred 44 people to TAP for abusing controlled substances. This is a worrying number. The picture we are getting is that of our people, especially the young, increasingly taking to drugs and alcohol.

There is a need to tighten the availability of controlled substances. Access seems to be at the heart of the problem. How do we engage our young people in more productive activities? Even as we have long recognised the ill effects and our complicated relation with alcohol, we haven’t done much to limit its lavish flow besides putting a stop on issuing bar licences. Much of problems can be addressed from home. Often our children grow up without support and guidance from elders.

For many young people who are in need of help, rehabilitation is an expensive option. While some wait on to join rehab, their problems aggravate. With the lack of enough rehabilitation centres, the greatest challenge we face today is addressing substance abuse cases that are on the rise. We have only two options with which to make any good. Either we tighten access to controlled substances, or set up more rehab centres.

Going by how unsuccessful we have been with closing access, more rehabilitation centres seems to be the only viable choice to address one of the greatest scourges of modern times.