At least one youth gets arrested everyday in the capital for involving in controlled substances.
Last week, the education minister shared in the Parliament that 4,000 of the 4,668 young people reported for abusing drugs in 2016 were from schools in Thimphu.
For a small country that has a large number of young people, a trend such as this is worrying. Each statistic that the police releases every month involves lives and revolves around families that are affected by this addiction that they indulge in.
We provide counselling and rehabilitation services and are consistently creating awareness. Yet, we see this vulnerable section of our society faltering and seeking refuge in substances that remain controlled but is easily available.
Drug abuse has been in the spotlight for sometime. The frequency of reports and pictures of seized controlled substances has increased over the years. Cases of these substances being found even among those who are in custody are also reported. We also have cases where offenders caught in possession of drugs are released on bail but are again arrested for the same crime.
It appears that drug abuse among youth has become the norm in Bhutan. In schools, we call it a disciplinary issue, but the same cases become patients in our hospitals and clients in the rehabilitation centres. To the police, drug abusers are criminals and when convicted by the court, the youth become convicts. To the hopeful parents however, they remain children who have erred.
The focus on drug abuse is not to build a narrative of a society that has failed to take care of its youth. It is to keep issues in the forefront and remind policymakers to understand the gravity of the situation. It should increase pressure on law enforcers to prevent and stop trafficking of controlled substances.
And, because it concerns our future, we must go beyond the explanation of a porous border to explain the easy availability of controlled substances in the country. Drug abuse is already a public health concern. It is a social and economic issue. We must not wait for it to grow into a crisis.