Youth substance abuse in Bhutan: A challenge to the pursuit of gross national happiness

Tshering Dolkar

T. Dolkar. Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, United States

Background: Bhutan’s policy of “Gross National Happiness” aims at the overall well-being and happiness of its people rather than its economic growth. Ironically, today Bhutan is faced with a challenging situation of drug and alcohol abuse increasingly among the youth. This paper explored current epidemiological understanding in Bhutan about drug abuse among youth.

Method: Scientific studies and literature published from 1989 to 2010 on the issue were collected and reviewed. Six reports were published on the issue.

Results: The first psychotropic narcotic drug abuse case was recorded in 1989 by the police, and the number of substance abuse cases has been increasing ever since. However, these reports do not provide a clear picture of different factors of drug use among youth in Bhutan. Recent reports from the National Drug Law Enforcement Unit of the Royal Bhutan Police show that 86.7% of the total number of drug abusers from 2004 until 2008 were youth and more than 50% were students.

Conclusion: No recent figures are available on drug abuse in Bhutan except for the ones provided by the police. The absence of research on the extent and nature of the situation of drug use and crime in the country makes it necessary to understand drugs and substance abuse to provide intervention services. Further research on drug and substance abuse is necessary.

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South Asia
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