Neten Dorji

Trashigang–Police records show that in 2022 alone, 761 drug crimes were reported in the country, the highest in the last five years, and an increase of 430 cases compared with 2021. 

But recovering addicts and advocates against drug crimes say that stringent laws and enforcement by Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) is not enough to deter drug abuse and illicit trafficking. 

At the drugs advocacy Campaign in Trashigang yesterday, Executive Director of Chithuen Phendhey Association Tshewang Tenzin, said that drug crimes cannot be addressed by law enforcement alone, as there is a need to dig deeper into the cause of rising drug cases in the country. 

Advocacy, he says, is in the centre of addressing these issues. 

“It is not enough to tighten the laws and send people behind bars,” he said. To ensure sustainable measures to address these issues, he said, there should be healthy interventions.

He said that the current enforcement practices prioritise only incarceration and deterrence overlooking demand reduction measures in dealing with the issue. 

Of the drug crimes reported last year, substance abuse accounted for 78 percent, followed by illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances at 36 percent.

As of last month, over 1,750 people were arrested and sentenced to prison for drug- related crimes.  

Tshewang Tenzin, a former addict, said that people abuse drugs due to underlying issues such as stress, psychological pain, childhood trauma, and social issues among others.

The state of poor home environment is the primary factor for drug use, he added. “The addiction has adversely affected society and has a greater impact on the younger generation.”

More than 700 youths between the ages of 18 and 24 were involved in drug-related cases last year. 

He said that the advocacy programme, themed, “Yes, We Care”, signifies the acknowledgement of the critical situation of addiction the younger generation is facing today. 

It is expected to empower people to understand the causes of drugs and alcohol addiction and prevent people from their first onset use of drugs or alcohol. 

The campaign emphasised on the collective responsibility of curbing the drugs and improving the youth’s involved in drug addiction for a better future. 

The month-long campaign that started from Mongar will end on August 31 in Pemagatshel. The advocacy programme covered five eastern dzongkhags.