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Keeping our children away from drugs

One of the biggest scourges of the modern times, drug abuse, is gnawing into the Bhutanese society. Going by the reports of incidents that come out in the media from time to time, the number of people peddling and abusing drugs seems to be increasing by the year.

This is worrying, especially when our young are involved. Many, who are still in school, are already dependent on controlled substances.

Whenever we bring the issue of substance abuse to the table, we spring to our feet and blame the porous border. What can we do about it, really? Build a wall? This harkens back to bizarre election sound bite from halfway around the world. How do the drugs get in and why are our children taking increasingly to substance abuse are some important thoughts that elude us. It is that our children are going to the drugs, or is it the drugs that are drawn to our children? Either way, there is a problem.

It has been observed that drug abuse and trafficking have increased over the years. In the recent times, over-the-counter sale of SP+ and N-10 has topped in the medical shops across the border, but peddlers have proliferated and the Bhutanese continue to have easy access to the controlled substances. Until as recently as early November this year, police intercepted and registered 70 drug abuse and trafficking cases in Phuentsholing.

We are told that drug abusers and traffickers are from all sections of the Bhutanese society, from students to civil servants, including teachers, to private employees and pensioners. For some, the problem is with addiction. For a large number of people, it is about money. So we get some picture of our changing society. It speaks volumes about our policy, planning and intervention failures. A society is not at the best of its health when its citizens, particularly the young, have been lost to drugs and other unproductive indulgences.

Although it is seen and practised as a deterrent measure, tightening the grip on the issue of drug abuse and trafficking may not be the answer. Hard rules have seldom worked. Our struggle with tobacco control is a case in point. It has been observed that trade and consumption of tobacco products have in fact risen after the control Act of 2010.

The National Assembly will today discuss amendment of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act 2015 as an urgent Bill. It is now incumbent on our honourable members of the Parliament to look at the long-term future of this country as they deliberate on changes to the law.

Laws by themselves, though, can do only so much. A great deal depends on how earnestly with courage and in manner fair we implement them. Delving deep and looking into the root causes of the problem could be the most sensible move. Hopelessness and lack of self-worth are often the reasons why our young people engage in sad indulgences. Maybe we should have more rehabilitation centres with professional services and ways to bring our young people back into the society with worthwhile jobs.

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