Battling Substance Abuse in Bhutan

Bhutan is blessed with stunning natural scenery on the one hand, and enduring image of architecture on the other. The most striking feature is that, all buildings whether large monasteries, private houses or even gas stations are made with traditional design. The teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism influence all aspects of life in the kingdom. For centuries this kingdom remained aloof from the rest of the world. However, similar to many other countries this nation too is facing some grave problems affecting the youth of the nation.

Substance abuse is affecting the Bhutanese youth like never before.

Substance abuse is affecting the Bhutanese youth like never before. Though it has been commented and written about two decades ago but what is agonizing is the fact that the situation is getting from bad to worse. Bhutanese youth are taking it lightly and making it a part of the local culture. A youth taking pills and the like has become a habitual part of the Bhutanese culture. Statistics of the Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA) points towards a grim state of affairs. It has been found that substance abuse has made its way into the smallest of urban settlements like Sakteng. The report also brings to light   that 56 percent of abusers were students and 91 percent were youth under 24 years.

Substance abuse is a youth related problem and hence students are the most vulnerable section. In Thimpu, students of class nine and above take to pills and some of them even sell it on their own. Not only Thimpu, even the gateway town of Phuentsholing is also facing the problem of illegal drugs.   The prohibited drugs are easily available in bordering Jaigaon attracting a vast number of high school students to its clutches. Youth in Thimpu, Paro and other towns get their routine supply of illegal drugs.  Since, illegal prescription drugs cannot be brought over the counter in Bhutan, so it comes concealed in underwear, car seats, engines, carcasses, taxis, buses, private, government, army and hospital vehicles.

Because of the easy availability of illegal drugs, the youth are getting hooked to it. The uses of illegal substances are destroying an entire generation of young Bhutanese.  A doctor with the Thimpu hospital said “It’s a problem that needs a multi-pronged approach, but coordination is lacking, everything is ad hoc. For us here, we don’t even have basic drug testing facilities.” Though measures have been taken to curb its influence but it has not been successful so far. Regional Workshop on Drugs and Substance Abuse should be organized so that the youth should have a higher level of understanding of the ill effects of substance abuse. As a young Bhutanese said “”We all need to work together in eradicating the scourge of drugs from damaging our countries.”

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