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'Sweden views drugs like the Catholic Church views condoms'

'Sweden views drugs like the Catholic Church views condoms'

Published: 05 Sep 2012 15:45 GMT+02:00
Updated: 05 Sep 2012 15:45 GMT+02:00

In the wake of the death of Swedish MP William Petzäll from an apparent drug overdose, Swedish journalist and columnist Ola Tedin likens Sweden's "irrational" drugs policy to the Catholic Church's stance on condoms.

The tragic death of MP and former Sweden Democrat William Petzäll, apparently from an overdose, clearly shows how Sweden's irrational drug policy costs lives.

In many ways it resembles the Pope's staunch resistance to contraceptives, another example where moralism is upheld at the cost of lives.

Few Swedes would see any sense in, from a moral standpoint, denying people the use of contraceptives. Using a condom not only prevents pregnancies, it also protects both parties from venereal disease and, of course, the deadly HIV-virus.

Notions that sex is for married couples in the sole purpose of procreation have long since vanished from the public mind.

So when the Catholic Church stops free-condom programmes in the developing countries on the grounds that it encourages adultery and extramarital sex, we Swedes tend to think that the Pope has a screw loose.

After all, condoms clearly would have helped reduce the catastrophic HIV epidemic that has hit parts of Africa. Admonishing people to abstain from all sorts of sex that is not intended to produce offspring seems more than just a little naive when such a policy instead helps to aggravate the HIV epidemic.

Yet, narcotic policies in Sweden are often reminiscent of the Catholic Church's stance on contraception.

Studies show that programmes for free needles, methadone and maybe even prescribed heroin not only save lives, it also reduces both human suffering and crime, thus greatly lowering the huge human and material costs on society that drug abuse causes.

The reason why policies in this direction are not pursued, or even discussed?

The answer usually goes along the lines that "narcotics are illegal and it would send the wrong signals to hand out drugs or needles to addicts".

I recently heard the Christian Democrat Minister for Children and the Elderly, Maria Larsson, pontificating along those lines on the radio.

But apart from not having succeeded in any significant reduction of substance abuse, despite decades of ever tougher legislation, a very different signal is sent more or less daily and William Petzäll became part of it.

He started as a Sweden Democrat but an internal conflict turned him into a rogue parliamentarian. I have no sympathy what so ever for the simplistic political ideas for which he stood.

Nor do I approve of the use of narcotics, the damage they cause, or the human suffering that follows.

Yet, it's clear that addiction, whether to prescribed medicine or illegal drugs from the street, is as much an illness as, say, alcoholism or eating disorders.

Still, people in William Petzäll's position are today more likely to end up in prison than in rehab. And sometimes only for having minuscule amounts of illegal substances in their bloodstream.

As a result of this moralistic stance, Sweden has an unusual high percentage of drug-related deaths.

About 400 people die every year as a result of their addiction, an internationally high figure that probably would be a lot lower if the addicts were to be primarily treated as suffering patients and not as wanton criminals.

After all, what is better: denying treatment of a morally repugnant behaviour because it is wrong and should be punished?

Or actually treating that behaviour in a way that saves lives?

If you prefer the former, try applying it on obesity or alcoholic liver disease.

If that still makes you feel morally comfortable, forget the latter.

Ola Tedin has written opinion journalism for several Swedish dailies, including Sydsvenskan and Expressen. He was the op-ed editor of the Ystad Allehanda newspaper from 2001 to 2011.

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Your comments about this article

21:46 September 5, 2012 by Swedishmyth
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Swedish government likes to exercise control over its populace, drugs included. Legal monopolies, regulations, rules, and prohibitions all over the place, and a monolithic state schooling system that chokes any trace of intellectual independence out of Swedes before the age of 20 so that they won't question any of it, topped off with oppressive taxation to prevent anyone from having any option should they desire one.

Why do you think the Swedish government allows adults complete freedom of access to information on the internet, while going out of its way to force children into its schooling institutions? Because it found out that you don't need Soviet or North Korean style fences and machine guns; just control the minds of the young (public schooling) and the bodies of the old (public healthcare) and you've got modern, clean authoritarianism.

Let them have their swearing and sex on TV and violent video games and libertarian blogs, so that Sweden somewhat resembles a Western nation. Government control of a person's first 18 years is what matters. After that they will spend their lives working, drinking, and voting for a Reichstag party of one flavor or another.
08:12 September 6, 2012 by smilingjack
as soon as someone admits being a christian you know they have a screw loose and to disregard everything they say.

very simple.
22:43 September 6, 2012 by redfish
Makes sense. And people who say that we can get people to eat healthy are also naive, instead of teaching people to eat healthy, we should give out free diet pills and anti-obesity medication -- this will save lives in the end. Also, remove all taxes from unhealthy food, since poor people tend to eat unhealthy, and we can't get them to stop, and this just punishes them. Oh, and the same thing with tobacco. Lets get rid of all tobacco taxes and have the government subsidize low-tar cigarettes so smokers can smoke less dangerously.

Personally, I think anyone who believes that the AIDS epidemic in Africa is the Catholic Church's fault is a little bit naive. African men choose not to use condoms, not because of anything the Church says, but because its not seen as "manly" to wear a condom. Polygamy is also the cultural tradition in many African countries, which helps spread the disease as much as anything else. But instead of criticizing African cultural traditions -- politically incorrect -- lets criticize the Church -- politically correct.

As for narcotics, are you talking about tying a needle program to rehab, or just giving out needles with no strings attached, nothing expected in return?
08:56 September 8, 2012 by Dodgerman
@redfish

It has been proven in countries like Australia that drug programs WORK in reducing the number of drug related fatalities and crimes.

Have you even been to any African countries? 50% of the world's population lives off less than $1 american dollar everday. How do you expect people to buy a pack of condoms costing $4 when they need that money to live? The author was simply stating the Catholic Church isn't helping the problem by refusing to hand out free condoms, instead they like the perception the world has they are 'helping' the less fortunate.

Wake up and get with the program!
08:06 September 10, 2012 by just do it
You are proving that some people are living on a different galaxy !!!

Well said Dodgerman.
08:23 September 10, 2012 by entry
What is Ola smoking and why is it that the atheists in Sweden do not use condoms? I doubt it has anything to do with the Catholic Pope.
11:36 September 11, 2012 by Scambaiter
sorry, another very poor translation (or original article in English written by a native Swedish speaker).

nore to the Local -- must do better!
23:21 September 11, 2012 by B.olesen
@Scambaiter - you're a prig - I'm reading this article without any problems at all.

That being said, the author of this article is 100% RIGHT - Swedens drug policies are so ridiculous you can't even buy any pseudoephedrine decongestant here.

@Dodgerman - YOU WAKE UP - I've seen the documentaries where the men say 'why should I wear a condom I ALREADY HAVE AIDS' and that the only reason they wear one is to protect themselves.

P.S. the #1 cause of the spread of aids in CONGO is RAPE, I doubt when 50 Rwandan soldiers gang rape a woman they bother with condoms.

The cause of the spread of AIDS isn't condoms or lack of availability of condoms, it's lack of MORALITY and human compassion for women.
20:42 September 12, 2012 by Dodgerman
@B.olesen

Well done for generalising a whole population by the 'documentary' you have seen. Spend some time in the community's that you are arguing so passionately for, then tell me about morality and human compassion.

Before you come back with another aggressive arguement in regards to my statement above. The answer is YES, I have immersed myself in said communty' for 3 years.

A free condom program not only helps to reduce HIV and STI's it also helps to reduce rejection of new parents by families, who have conceived out of wedlock. Which can contribute to a chain reaction of poverty and possible further abuse to ALL members of the family.
22:43 September 12, 2012 by StayKalM
Ok, so we are discussing two different issues here. Why the author changes topic midway through the article is interesting to say the least, but I do think that he brings about an interesting argument.

While the data may show that lives are saved and crimes are less common (both very nobel purposes), should Sweden be facilitating its own problem? Realistically, the issue here is drug addiction and respectively how to reduce it. I think that it is clear that the current system is not working and that jailing drug addicts is not getting anyone anywhere. While the law is clenching to its now failing and faded glories, the problem is not being solved, but only covered with a band-aid. Save some real lives and get people off of drugs, taking them out of prison and placing them in rehab. There is a need for reform in that area, not in handing out free needles, drugs, etc. though it is covering the wound for the time being. We are treating the symptoms in this case, not the disease.
16:50 September 14, 2012 by jimmyjames
The truth is that all across the globe, for over 50 years, the aggressive, heavy handed criminal persecution of personal drug use has been an absolute, complete failure. Since the beginning of human existance people have drank, smoked, chewed, and in the past 100 years injected all manner of substances to alter our state-of-mind. All these governments and countries are going to have to reach an understanding that what an adult man/women wishes to ingest in the privacy of their own homes is their personal business. Just like alcohol and tobacco there has to be some restrictions to attempt to protect children, ect. I'm not suggesting to just throw up ones hands and walk away, these are dangerous substances but they can be controlled and monitered just like alcohol or something along those general lines. Common-sense, plain 'ole common-sense. Obviously what has been "the plan" for the past 50+ years has done NOTHING OF MERIT AT ALL !!!
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