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How serious are we in curbing the drug issue? Itโ€™s not a question to ponder but an action to rid off

โ€ฆโ€œEvery child is precious. We cannot afford to lose any child or for that matter, any one to substance abuse. We must not allow substance abuse to jeopardize thei future,โ€ His Majesty The King.

By Dechen Wangda & Dechen Pem

After His Majesty highlighted and addressed the issue of drug abuse among youths on the 115th National Day, The Royal Bhutan Police along with Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) has apparently geared up with immediate strategy to solve the problem.

Although they have been working on this matter from a very long time, the problem has been still prevailing. This time, RBP will set up a special task force, various drug units and police stations around the country and crack down the drug traffickers and its related issues. Various monitoring and advocating programs are also in place.

According to the Deputy Chief of Police, Pasang Dorji, the most drug traffickers are infiltrated in the country through the porous borders. They bring in drugs like Pasmo-Proxyvon plus (SP+), Nitrosun 10 (N10), Corex, marijuana and thinner among which SP+ and marijuana are the most common. The numbers of cases are increasing, this year, as of December 18, 2022 a total of 684 drug related cases have been registered with Royal Bhutan Police (RBP).

โ€œThe plans and strategies to bring down the issue have always been in place. We keep surveillance; go on patrolling and monitoring towns, cities, check posts and the borders. We have mainly focused on tracking down the ones who are trafficking drugs through the borders. The youths are the highest in numbers to be involved. Although all of this is happening we still have large numbers of drug traffickersโ€, he said.

โ€œPolice alone will not be able to solve the problem; it is a national issue or a national menace. Therefore, every citizen should take responsibility equally with all other stakeholders like Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) and the Dzongkhags and for that matter it is highly important that RBP and BNCA work together as the two bodies are the main stakeholders who can solve the problemโ€, he added.

Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency (BNCA) also shares equal responsibility together with RBP to curb down the issue.
BNCA was established in 2006 with the vision to create a Nation of Gross National Happiness free of drugs and control substance abuse and the mission to establish a premier agency that can effectively coordinate, facilitate and combat the abuse and illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and controlled substances.

Tshering Om, Deputy Chief Legal Officer, BNCA said that they are working closely with RBP in developing new strategies and working on the gaps and challenges in countering the drug problems.

โ€œSome people say that counselling programs given by BNCA are ineffective whereby, counselling is an evidence-based practice which encompasses numerous techniques and skills proven to be effective in the treatment of many mental health illnesses including drug dependence and it depends on how seriously it is taken by the receiversโ€, she said.
BNCA has carried out numerous activities both in demand and supply reduction activities. Supply Reduction Measures are mainly focused on the enforcement and compliance with various provisions of the Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act of Bhutan (NDPSSA) and Tobacco Control Act. One of the major supply reduction measures that NDPSSA and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) mandate is to control any illicit trafficking of NDPS and tobaccos, ensure compliance to non-smoking areas, effective licit use.

โ€œSince, it is internationally advocated that drug use is a brain disease, Section 152 of the NDPSSA Act provides opportunity for drug users (those testing positive and who may be in possession of small amounts of drugs) to avail treatment. Various forms of treatment are given to the drug users depending on their severity as assessed by the Treatment Assessment Panel (Section 153 and 154 of NDPSSA Act). However, provisions such as Sections 132, 134, 138, 140 and 141 of NDPSSA Act prescribes penalties for illegal possession and illicit trafficking of Cannabis, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances ranging from misdemeanour to felony of first degree,โ€ she added.

However, it remains dubious of authority and agenciesโ€™ earnestness to curb drugs issues in the country in absence of dateline or timeframe achievement of objectives supported by synergy of pragmatic programs, strategies and measures. This issue has to be taken head-on and with solemness for itโ€™s the royal command to fight with drugs like we have fought COVID-19 through our hard work, dedication and proper planning.

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