Years ago, Finland ceased to be safe from the ravages caused by drugs in society and in people's health. Since the turn of the century, drugs have become a daily phenomenon for more and more Finns, with increases in the number of users and people who come into contact with illegal substances, either directly or through others.
According to the latest Drug Survey published by the Finnish Institute for Wealth and Health (THL), more than half of Finns under the age of 35 personally said they know somebody who is a drug user. And more than one third of Finns have also been offered drugs for use or purchase.
"Drugs have become an increasingly well-known phenomenon in Finnish society. More and more Finns are personally in contact with drugs use, through their own or through the experiences of people they know,", explains Research Professor Pekka Hakkarainen, from THL.
Hakkarainen also points out that the fact that drug use is a more common phenomenon has influenced people's perception of drug users: according to the survey, Finns' fear of suffering any form of violence due to consumption of drug by other people has declined significantly in the last 20 years.
In the 2018 survey, 19% of respondents said they fear being subjected to violence due to other people's drug use. This percentage was 40% at the beginning of the millennium, so it has been reduced by half.
Most of 2018 respondents agree with established drug-related harm reduction measures, such as health counseling points for drug users (79%) and the use of substitution drugs in opioid dependence (65%).
With regard to the new harm reduction measures, some changes in the Finnish mentality towards drugs have been observed.
According to the survey, about half of the Finns consider partially or fully acceptable the creation of drug-use rooms. Those are professionally supervised health facilities where people can use illicit drugs in a safe environment. In other countries they have been in use for decades, but in Finland they still do not exist.
“Finns also seem ready to adopt new measures to reduce drug harm,” Hakkarainen says.
Finns also widely accept drug control measures. Almost everyone (90%), for example, accepts workplace drug tests.
Health problems increased
According to the 2018 Drug Survey, drug experimentation and use has become increasingly common. For example there is an increasing proportion of cannabis users, especially among young adults aged 25-34.
Health problems caused by drug use have increased, especially among those aged 25-34. In 2010, 2% of the age group had them, but in 2018 the proportion had risen to 5%.
About 3% of respondents in 2018 reported having been on treatment for substance abuse. In the past, men had been treated a little more often than women, but by 2018 the difference had leveled out.