RBP arrest 628 individuals in drug cases from January to mid-March 2024

From January to mid-March 2024, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) registered 352 cases related to drug abuse and arrested 628 individuals.

From the 628 arrests, 533 individuals have been sent for deaddiction treatment and 92 individuals are under police custody, charged for illegal trafficking.

As usual, Thimphu is leading with 136 cases followed by Phuntsholing with 60 cases and Gelephu with 39 cases.  Corresponding arrests were 225 people from Thimphu, 81 people from Phuentsholing and 105 people from Gelephu.

In 2023, 3,669 people were arrested in 1,920 drug cases while in 2022 a total of 1,557 people were arrested in 721 drug cases.

In terms of seizure, pharmaceutical drugs, with tramadol capsules SP Plus are the highest as RBP seized almost 45,000 capsules.

Other substance includes solvents which are mostly thinner and correction fluid.

RBP has forwarded 80 cases of illegal trafficking, 6 cases of illegal possession involving 541 abusers to the courts. More than 86 individuals who have exceeded the three times offenders list will also be charge sheeted.

RBP revealed that many minors and youths are involved in solvents use. 

RBP said the thinner and correction fluid, are not banned as it has other necessary uses, but there needs to be certain control measures. “It is mostly being abused by minors and youths, it is because firstly it is cheap and then the easy availability,” stated RBP. 

Furthermore, recent data from the RBP and OAG revealed that drug abuse is the dominant crime in the nation. While the most heinous crimes are murder and rape, the RBP says we cannot undermine the gravity of drug abuse.

Studies shows that the repercussions of substance abuse are profound, beginning with the individual and extending to families, communities, and the nation at large. The physical, mental, and psychological well-being of individuals is compromised, leading to organ damage and psychological distress, particularly affecting vital brain functions.

Substance abuse places a substantial burden on criminal justice and healthcare systems, diminishing productivity and exacerbating social and economic challenges.

Teenagers, youth, and adults in their productive years are particularly vulnerable to substance abuse, resulting in decreased productivity, unemployment, and societal disengagement.

To combat this urgent issue, a collaborative, multi-dimensional approach involving all stakeholders is imperative said the RBP. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, His Majesty The King has mobilized teams from the National COVID Task Force to form the National Drug Task Force, stressing the critical importance of addressing drug abuse.

However, a holistic approach needs to be there, not just the task force doing it according to a RBP official.

There is only 1 drug division in Thimphu and only 7 dzongkhags have drug units which are namely, Paro, Punakha, Wangdue, Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar and Samtse. The RBP asked if it means there are no drug users and cases in rest of the dzongkhags?

The RBP official said other crimes would also decrease by 50 percent, if the drug issue in the nation is resolved. Hence, it is imperative for every individual to invest on tackling this issue.

Drug abuse is not deemed a crime, but a more than that, it is a contagious disease that requires careful treatment over a period of time with the right approach.

Families affected by substance use mentioned that if this trend continues, in future, the safety, security and harmony of the nation is also at stake.

Dechen, a concerned citizen, said “We must face this menace as a team, community and as a nation, not as an organization, institute or a department.”

“When we look at drug crime, we should not look at it as a typical crime, we should look at it as a national challenge, as a national issue which has to be tackled,” Dechen added. 

A recovering addict said that, for now, the strategy seems to be just arresting the individuals and sending them to rehabs and counselling sessions. However, after they come out, there is no after care, there is no reintegration. This gives the opportunity for the individuals to relapse.

He asked, who gets the ultimate blame? People will say police are arresting them and the rehabs and counselling is useless. However, should we really blame them?

He shared, “Substance use is a disease, like any other disease. Does it not need an aftercare? Who is going to give the aftercare? The individual affected has to take care as an affected individual, the concerned family have to give aftercare, the society has to create a conducive environment, the community and the nation as whole must do the same”.

“This is mainly the reason that even after staying years in prison or rehabilitation centers, the individuals commit the same crime. Any individuals affected by substance use after they come clean and try for job opportunities in the market, are rejected by organizations with harsh words, with no acceptance,” he added.

He further said, “Youths dropping out of schools, with no livelihood skills, do not get employment nor can they open their own business having no skills. For an effective society, what we have to do is whether it is in the prison, rehabilitation center or anywhere, we have to work towards developing their capabilities and giving relatable job opportunities, society’s acceptance and then the issue will be solved”.

Most of the recovery addicts shared while the RBP focuses on supply reduction efforts, a comprehensive approach to demand reduction necessitates the collective engagement of society. Effective measures to combat substance abuse require holistic strategies encompassing prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, emphasizing the need for a supportive and enabling environment for individuals in recovery.

The stigmatization and marginalization of individuals recovering from substance abuse hinder their successful reintegration into society, underscoring the need for societal acceptance and supportive frameworks.

Also, individuals affected by substance use shared that the current approach of arrests, rehabilitation, and counseling, while essential components of the reformative process, must be supplemented with comprehensive aftercare and reintegration services.

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