A nationwide crackdown on drugs has been on since December 2013. The Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act have been amended twice. Drug offenders are named and shamed.

To what extent these measures have addressed in deterring drug abuse in the country is yet to be known. Law enforcement agencies say they are fighting a losing battle against drugs and reports indicate that the problem is only growing.

Besides abusing controlled substances and prescription drugs, our youth are now taking to thinner, solvents that are readily available in the market. The Act doesn’t allow the sale of paint thinners and other solvents to minors but the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) has observed an increasing number of youth abusing these substances. 

At a time when porous borders and easy access to contraband substances have already hampered the crackdown efforts, this development is worrying. Traffickers and abusers, when caught are usually through tip offs and the easy availability and accessibility of solvents at home makes the situation worse. A recent case of smuggling controlled substances tells us that the substances were brought into the country through a Bolero with a West Bengal registration number. 

Instances such as these indicate that there are certain vehicles that aren’t searched for contraband substances. It suggests that hardware stores may be selling paint thinners to youth and minors and that youth could be accessing these substances from sites where such solvents are used. If we are unable to curb access and availability at home, we can’t do much in curtailing access from across the border.  

While authorities may be challenged with human resource and finance, it is imperative that the fight against drug abuse does not lose momentum. Being complacent and lamenting about drug abuse and over crowded prisons is not an option because the problem concerns our youth, the nation’s future. 

BNCA, which provides treatment to those dependent on controlled substances, is also challenged with clients not adhering to the treatment. About half of some 500 dependents that were referred for compulsory treatment aren’t complying with the treatment regimen. It has been learnt that few who were put on residential treatment have absconded. Last year, policereferred 366 adults and 122 persons below the age of 18 years last year for compulsory treatment. Some were as young as 12 year olds.

Compliance is an important determinant of the treatment outcome and it is worrying that half of those refereed do not adhere to their recovery process. Since most choose to stay home instead of receiving treatment, parents and guardians must step in and help their children get help. In most cases, we have seen that lack of family support and broken families make children vulnerable to the vices of drugs. 

For the society to change its perception towards drug users, parents and elders that children look up to must accept that they have also wronged.