Drug offenders on the rise

As per the statistics from Bhutan Narcotic Control Authority (BNCA), police arrested 960 individuals as of June this year, 2018 for drug related offences. The total number of arrest includes both who were forwarded to BNCA for treatment and those who are convicted for illegal transaction or possession of controlled substance.

The statistics also show that, in 2017, police arrested 1,055 people in connection to drug related cases while in 2016 the total arrests were just 550 people. In 2001, police apprehended under 100 people. The numbers above show a steady increase in the number of drug offences and arrests. It also shows that since the the drug arrests data for 2018 are until June, it would mean that the total arrests for 2018 would be much higher than 2017.

Dzongkhag wise, between 2012 to 2017, Thimphu contributed the highest with 40 percent followed by Chukha Dzongkhag with almost 30 percent.

However, there are Dzongkhags like Trashiyangtse, Trongsa, Tsirang, Samdrup Jongkhar, Zhemgang, Trashigang, Gasa and Lhuentse that did not contribute a single case in the same period.

An official from the BNCA said that, going by the referral of drugs abusers and offenders by police to BNCA, they have received 490 abusers while in 2018 as of October, they have received 596 abusers. “596 is inclusive of Treatment Assessment Panel (TAP) from the four regions”, he said.

Going by age group, he said that, it is interesting that the, majority of abusers come in the adolescent age range which is below the age of 24 years. The maximum number comes in between the age of 14 to 24 years.

In 2017 and 2018, the majority of offenders were between the age of 19 to 24 years, which means more than 40 percent. As a whole, 80 percent of the drug offenders are below the age of 24 years.

In addition, an official said that, in 2017 the youngest referral was a 11-year-old boy while the eldest was 42-year-old man. Likewise, in 2018 the youngest referral was 13-year-old boy while the eldest was 45-year-old man.

“Police caught the youngest offender when they were using the drugs out of curiosity. In this case parents don’t know and by the time they know, the child will be into drugs already. I hope that he may not use it in future as well”, he added.

There are women referral as well, however, the number is very minimal. 98 percent of offenders are male while the rest 2 percent are female offenders.

Meanwhile, going by the number of individual drug users, officials said that, the majority of offenders are into cannabis (THC) followed by thinner, then SP+ and last N10 (Nitrosum). Both 2017 and 2018 has the same pattern.

He also said that, beside individual drug users, there are offenders who use more than two or more drugs at a same time which is referred as a poly drug-user. “The proportionate of poly drug-users are quite alarming, in the sense that, in 2018 it is 28 percent which is an increase from 23 percent in 2017,” he added.

He said that, they did a small analysis whereby they found that, the majority of the poly drug users use a combination of cannabis and SP+ (15 percent). It is then followed by cannabis, SP+ and N10 (6 percent), SP+ and N10 is 4 percent. The combination of cannabis and thinner, cannabis and N10 and SP+ and thinner has minimal users, of about 2 percent each.

Their 2017 and 2018 record show that, of the total referral by police to BNCA, the maximum drug offenders are unemployed at around 50 percent, followed by students at around 30 percent and then the employed at around 25 percent.

In the employed category around 50 percent are self employed, drivers are almost 19 percent and labor are 18 percent.

Mechanics and Guides also figure at around 12 and nine percent respectively.

He said that, they also have people from the civil service, armed forces, guides, monastic body and the private sector. “Even farmers working in the field also started using drugs “, he added.

Farmers believe that taking SP+ would help them in reliving the amount of pain they get while working in the field and for that reason they started abusing SP+, he said.

BNCA deals with the drug offenders having to do with substance abuse as per section 153 of Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse (NDPSSA) Act.

Earlier, under the NDPSSA Act 2005, all substance abuse was considered as a crime whereby they would get locked up and charge sheeted to the court of law.

Now with NDPSSA Act 2015, they have a special provision because of which any drug abuser is given the opportunity for treatment instead of imprisonment. In addition, if a person is found with a possession below the quantity mentioned in the act, he/she will be referred to BNCA for Treatment Assessment Panel or TAP.

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