A documentary ‘Jigme – you can do it’ is the agency’s latest attempt to highlight a growing youth malaise
BNCA: He had a dream to become a neurologist. He was selected in the school’s basketball team and had a caring mother.
But that wasn’t enough for Jigme. He craved his father’s attention and, when his friends coaxed him to give some alcohol and cigarettes a try, Jigme gave in.
The incident in the forest where he tried drugs for the first time was the beginning of his addiction journey. The student, who had wanted to treat diseases of the nervous system, was himself in need of help for his addicted brain.
The story of Jigme, the protagonist in “Jigme – You can do it,” a documentary directed by Kencho Wangdi (Bonz), tells the stories of thousands of Jigmes, who have fallen into the addiction trap, and gives hope that they can come out as survivors.
Produced by Bhutan Narcotic Control Agency (BNCA), the documentary’s message is clear – addiction is a disease, and those suffering from addiction needs help, not stigmatisation; and that help is available.
Told through factual narratives and based on a collection of true stories, the documentary puts a face to the stories of youth, who are living with addiction today. It’s BNCA”s latest and, perhaps, most effective attempt to create awareness on substance abuse, and to bring back society’s attention to a national issue that has been affecting the lives of the country’s youth for years.
In the last 14 years, a total of 4,901 people, at least one a day, have been arrested in cases related to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (NDPS), records with the agency show.
Of the total arrested between 2001 and 2014, youth made up 3706, with students topping the list of offenders. Marijuana at 46 percent is the most abused substance in the country, followed by pharmaceutical drugs at 36 percent, solvent at 17 percent, and brown sugar at one percent.
The unemployed follow students in the list of offenders at 34 percent, painters at 10 percent, and private employees at 9.40 percent. Tour guides are close behind at eight percent, while monks make 0.30 percent (about 15) of the offenders.
After arresting the first female in 2002, a total of 220 females have been arrested until last year in cases related to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances case.
“The documentary highlights that addiction can happen to anyone, and that addiction should be understood and accepted as a brain disease,” BNCA’s director general, Phuntsho Wangdi, said at the launch of the documentary on January 17. “It highlights the importance of family support and to disregard social stigma in treatment of addicts.”
BNCA officials said the social stigma that society attaches to addiction was apparent even when the documentary was being filmed. “Schools were unwilling to have the movie shot in their campus fearing it would tarnish the school’s image,” Phuntsho Wangdi said.
A national baseline assessment survey in 2009, to assess the extent and type of drug and controlled substances used in Bhutan, found that about five percent of classes XI-XII students consumed alcohol daily, while about 2.35 percent of students abused cannabis everyday.
Among other challenges, such as limited fund and time, the agency also received poor response from movie firms, when the tender to produce the documentary was floated.
However, the 45-minute documentary, which was produced at a cost of Nu 845,000 and completed in three months, showed that an entertaining story with a message and without many female cast could be told.
The documentary is dedicated to the Fourth Druk Gaylpo’s 60th birth anniversary celebrations.
BNCA’s chair and health minister, Tandin Wangchuk, said they had to be mindful that, in their effort to create awareness, the documentary shouldn’t also teach the youth on how to do drugs. “Right now, the biggest issue facing our youth is substance abuse,” he said. “We’ve been creating awareness for a long time and we hope this documentary will help the society understand addicts and addiction.”
Given the large youth population and with youth being a majority of abusers, BNCA officials said there was a need to develop comprehensive drug awareness prevention programs both within and outside the education system. The porous border makes the country vulnerable to drug trafficking and, according to BNCA, abuse and illicit trafficking of pharmaceutical drugs is on the rise.
“An increasing number of drug addicts, more than 200, are availing treatment and rehabilitation services in the bordering Indian towns due to lack of limited intake capacity in the country,” BNCA”s deputy chief program officer Dorji Tshering said. “The relapse rate among recovered addicts is also increasing.”
But Jigme isn’t one of those, who go through a relapse after his rehabilitation program. He returns home, a recovered person, with his wish renewed to become a neurologist.
By Sonam Pelden