If we go by the frequency of illicit drug trafficking and the amount people are smuggling in, we might get an impression that drugs are in no short supply even with the borders sealed and travel restricted or monitored.

The latest seizure, on November 1, was 5,760 capsules of Spasmo proxyvon plus, the most traded drug. Earlier in October, police also nabbed a man with 3,596 capsules. Put together, it is about 10,000 capsules. What is not an impression is that drug abuse has become a big problem.

Risking getting caught even with the borders closed to keep the supply interrupted says a lot of things. There sure is demand. That is why people risk smuggling in drugs. There is money in it. That is why people are risking breaking laws even if aware of the additional penalties for criminal nuisance during the pandemic.

We have problems in getting in a lot of goods that are legally allowed and even facilitated. Therefore, we have shortage and increase in price. Drugs, it seems, are supplied well. Many agree, and we can surmise from the illegal trade, that for every smuggler caught there are three escaping. Judging by the number of capsules, they might be smuggling in enough to keep a good portion of the population drugged.

It is difficult to clamp down on smugglers. There are many ways to escape authorities even if we have the most stringent law in place or the most secure border. We cannot break the supply chain. We cannot discourage people from getting involved and we cannot stop people from abusing it.

Why is there a demand? In other words, why are our people hooked on drugs? What is wrong with our policies and strategies? Who are the people being catered to? Many confess of hardship like not having jobs or support, both from families and the system, as reasons for abusing drugs. But drugs like SP it is said are expensive. The risk of having to smuggle it in makes it more expensive.

Smugglers usually are out of school youth, unemployed or taxi drivers who see it as a lucrative business, even worth risking getting arrested.  The clients who keep the trade going are not known.

Some say that the current arrangement forced by the pandemic like goods getting quarantined and not opened has provided a window of opportunity for smugglers. How do we deal with that?

Theoretically we know what needs to be done.  We say that, in the long run, education is the only real solution.  Not to deride the numerous initiatives like advocacy and awareness programmes, but education alone has not worked. Nor has the logic that Bhutan’s problem is smaller than most countries as far as numbers are concerned.

It is a misconception. In terms of implications it may be far more precarious. If we can smuggle in drugs during a lockdown or when the border is sealed, it says a lot.