6,205 individuals arrested in drug-related cases last year

Over 6,000 individuals were arrested in drug-related cases last year, marking a significant increase from previous years. While the rise in arrests has been attributed to intensified monitoring, efforts are also underway to assist those arrested and those battling drug addiction. Specialised interventions, such as substance use disorder (SUD) treatments and care services, are provided to detained drug offenders.

Sonam Jamtsho, aged 32, was in eighth grade when he witnessed older boys abusing drugs. One thing led to another, and Sonam became hooked.

“When I saw them taking drugs, I tried one to experiment. I started taking more and more, eventually becoming heavily addicted.”

His addiction led him to steal money to buy drugs, robbing people, and engaging in burglary.

“I turned towards chemicals mainly used on furniture, becoming heavily addicted to them. It hampered my academic life as I could not concentrate on my studies and had to repeat. I then got addicted to SP+ capsules.”

His troubled life and drug addiction were not without consequences. Sonam spent almost six years in prison on three different occasions.

Even after his release from prison in 2022, he continued to abuse drugs until he decided enough was enough and sought help from The PEMA Secretariat in November of last year. Four months later, Sonam has not seen the sight of drugs.

The PEMA Secretariat, in collaboration with the National Drug Taskforce, provides substance use disorder treatments and care services to individuals detained for substance abuse.

Currently, The PEMA Secretariat is drafting a strategy to address substance use issues through both demand and supply reduction.

“The other aspect is addressing drug use issues. This shouldn’t fall solely on one organization’s shoulders. The police alone cannot handle it, nor can the Pema Secretariat tackle it alone. Therefore, all relevant stakeholders must come together to combat this menace of drug use,” said Dorji Tshering, Chief Programme Officer of The PEMA Secretariat.

The strategy also aims to enhance health services provided to people struggling with substance use issues.

Last year, The PEMA Secretariat referred more than 3,000 individuals to treatment for substance use.

Additionally, over 350 individuals were referred for treatment in the first two months of this year.

Regarding the 6,205 drug-related arrests made last year, the highest numbers were reported in Thimphu, Phuentshogling, and Gelephu.

The majority of those arrested belonged to the 18-39 age group.

According to the police, the establishment of the Narcotic Drug and Other Vices Division, along with seven police stations dedicated to curbing drug-related issues, also contributed to the increase in the number of arrests.

Meanwhile, for Sonam, staying away from drugs has allowed him to spend time with his parents and loved ones, moments that were taken away from him by drugs.

Kinzang Lhadon/ Tashi Dekar

Edited by Sherub Dorji

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