However the minister said the Govt. cannot afford to be complacent  

Event: Since 2010, there has not been a significant rise in arrests related to drug use and its illicit trafficking, health minister Tandin Wangchuk said during an event to observe International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, yesterday.

However, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk pointed out that geographically Bhutan is located in a vulnerable location, in a region that produces the largest amounts of illegal drugs. “Bhutan is very susceptible to the influx of illegal and dangerous drugs,” Lyonpo said.

Despite no significant rise in drug-related arrests, the health minister said the government cannot become complacent. “Drug issues still continue to pose a serious threat to the public health, safety and well-being of our people, especially among the youth.”

Police records show that 296 cases related to possession of controlled substances and its illegal transaction were reported last year, while 370 and 289 cases were reported in 2014 and 2013 respectively.

Since police began a major crackdown on drugs on December 2, 2013, 1,373 persons were arrested as of October 23 last year. Of the total, 789 are aged below 24.

Lyonpo explained that the government’s commitment remains strong to prevent and curb the drug menace in Bhutan.

As part of the demand reduction programmes, the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) conducted a wide range of prevention and treatment programmes in communities and schools across the country to prevent young people from using drugs and other controlled substances.

Simultaneously, other stakeholders like the Youth Development Fund, Chithuen Phendhey Association, education and health ministries, among others, supported by providing counseling, treatment, rehabilitation and after-care services.

On the supply side, in order to stem illicit trafficking of controlled substances, regular inspections are carried out in and around the country’s control points with support from the law enforcement agencies.

BNCA’s director general, Phuntsho Wangdi, said that despite the concerted efforts of the law enforcement agencies, many Bhutanese youths continue to be drawn into substance abuse.

Phuntsho Wangdi pointed out that Bhutan’s porous borders and lure of easy money provide drug traffickers with easy access to drugs that can be distributed which ends up affecting the lives of many people and the country as a whole.

Although the responsible agencies are making every effort to control drug abuse and trafficking in the country, it will be difficult to handle the situation if society as a whole does not see the problem as being a collective responsibility, Phuntsho Wangdi added.

Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said that the illicit drug problem affects every level of society. “It is a national concern and responsibility of every citizen,” he said.

As part of the event, the Zhung Dratshang’s Leytshog Lopon, Sangay Dorji, and Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk launched the book, “Guidelines for Accreditation of Drop-in Centres and Treatment cum Rehabilitation Centres in Bhutan”.

A thousand butter lamps were also lit at Trashichhodzong in Thimphu to mark the day which has been observed worldwide since 1987.

The theme for this year is “Listen First: listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe.”

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) world drug report 2016, which provides the global overview of the supply and demand of illicit drugs and their impact on health, about five percent of the adult population (250  million) aged between 15 and 64 used at least one drug in 2014.

It was also reported that there are 29 million people suffering from substance use disorders and that 207,000 deaths related to drug use occurred in 2014. Cannabis is the most commonly used drug at the global level, with an estimated 183 million people having used it in the same year.

Dechen Tshomo