Substance abuse among women a growing problem

Untitled-1The Phuentsholing police detained a 30-year old woman in connection with illegal transaction of controlled substances at the border entrance gate last month.

This is just one more instance of many in a line of such incidences encountered by the police. There is evidence that woman are both getting into the drugs business and abusing it too.

More and more women are getting caught in substance abuse, despite the best efforts to educate and prevent drug abuse by concerned authorities.

Going by the records compiled with the Narcotics Drug Law Enforcement Unit (NDLEU) of Thimphu police station, the figures have increased each year in comparison to the previous years with regards to arrest of woman involved with drugs across the country.

In a span of 12 years, a total of 158 arrests were made between 2001 till 2012 across the country in which there were records six cases of death due to drug overdose.

The officer in-charge of NDLEU, said for a small country like Bhutan, the figure is alarming.

The figures for the drug abuse among the women are high as compared to illegal transaction, however, an increasing few are into it due to the lucrative business and in order to make fast money.

The few women (abusing drugs), The Bhutanese talked to said they had no particular reasons to get involved with drugs but for some it was out of depression and frustration in life that they had got hooked onto substance abuse.

For few it was just for fashion and for some it was due to family problems that they got into drug abuse.

A 28-year old, female private employee, said “It has been two years now that I am into drugs and nobody knows about it except for a few friends of mine. Due to a series of failed relationships I had gotten into such a mess and it has become very difficult for me to get rid of it now, despite my every effort to stop it.”

According to the police, drug abusers among single women and students top the list followed by unemployed people and housewives. And even private and government officials figure into the list.

According to the police, 70 % of the age group of women is youth while 30% are adults.

Women are more into pharmaceutical drugs then marijuana as per the police records and Bhutan Narcotic Control Authority (BNCA) officials. The officials assume that the pharmaceutical drugs are easy to get from across the border and from dealers, while for marijuana involves too much hassles like going to the forest, rubbing it to make into hash which is time-consuming and rsiky for women.

The Media focal person of BNCA Sonam Tshering said that the high detection of drug abuse among women might be due to the introduction of the drug-testing kit in the police stations and also due to awareness campaigns.

The media focal person, who is also an Assistant legal officer said the usage of drugs among women, is a big concern as it not only has an impact on the individual user but also on others. For example, for pregnant women, it is dangerous for her child and diseases like HIV can be transmitted through syringes.

He admitted that advocacy especially on women’s drug usage and its ill effects were not done so far  but BNCA is planning to do so in the future.

In 2009, a MoU was signed with India on drugs enforcement and rehab and treatment and so far three meetings were held in which drugs issues were addressed.

BNCA has also taken part in the Border district coordination meeting since 2010 where drug issues were also addressed and the outcome was good as per Sonam Tshering.

Despite every effort put in by the concerned officials and authorities, drug usages among women is gaining in popularity.

Sniffing of dendrite is no longer the highly visible problem as it used to be, but unfortunately it has been replaced by pharmaceutical drugs.

BNCA spokesperson Sonam Tshering feels that drug problems cannot be tackled immediately as it has a long way to go. Though eliminating drug problem is a concern as of now but Sonam Tshering feels that they can monitor and control drug abuse in the country.

“We have to focus more on advocacy in order to control drug usage,” he said.

The community based assessment (CBA) findings conducted by BNCA shows that Thimphu has the highest number of drug abusers among the women with 42 abusers followed by 13 abusers in Chhukha and 4 each in Paro and Sarpang.

Arrest of female drug users from 2001 to 2012 across the country

 Chencho Dema / Thimphu





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