Performance drug “easily accessible”

Three reports this week suggested that Swedes are increasingly saying 'Yes' to drugs. And the traditional image of a drug addict needs a rethink as office workers and fitness enthusiasts are the latest groups to be targeted.

According to Dagens Industri, alcohol consumption has increased by 30% in the last five years, whilst the number of 18 year olds doing national service who’ve admitted to having tried drugs has tripled since 1991.

Last week, the paper talked to Fredrik Ljung and Martin Sjöberg, both former drug addicts, who once mixed high-powered city jobs with a regular cocktail of booze and drugs. Having turned over a new leaf, they now spend their time advising employers how to look for the warning signs that employees have a drug problem.

“It’s an economic risk to have people like this in the workplace,” Martin Sjöberg, 34, said. “The Consulting and Finance industries are increasingly aware of this.”

Persuading companies to take an interest in employees drug habits not for their own welfare but for the damaging effect on performance is a novel way of dealing with the problem.

But Sunday’s Svenska Dagbladet was equally concerned about the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs – in Swedish gyms. Apparently there’s a wave of workout junkies taking ephedrine to improve their stamina and fitness.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve tried it,” Linnéa Cederwall, who’s worked out at a lot of different gyms in Stockholm, told SvD. “It’s mostly older women, in their late 30s, early 40s.”

Cederwall said that she had been offered the drug herself and that it is easily accessible to those who want it.

“It’s everywhere, both at the gym and on the internet,” she said.

But not everyone SvD spoke to was so sure about the prevalence of the performance enhancing drug.

“I’ve no idea how common it is,” admitted Eva Torsell, 26, Stockholm. “I’ve never come into contact with it.”

Patrik Nygren, responsible for personal training programs at Stockholm’s SATS gyms, said he thinks people are talking about ephedrine more than before, but claimed: “We haven’t found a single SATS member using [it] yet.”

The trouble is, it’s hard for gyms to figure out if the drug’s being used on their premises.

“We can’t use CCTV for moral reasons, but we are keeping our eyes open as best we can,” Nygren assured SvD.

Nygren also revealed that some gym-goers come forward, prepared to snitch on the cheats who are using hormones. “This has led to some people being banned from the gym.”

Finally, Tuesday saw SvD return again to the subject of drugs with the news that health chiefs are concerned about the affects of cannabis and alcohol on driving.

The potent mixture is “more dangerous than first thought,” the paper declared. “Even a little bit of [alcohol and ] hash dramatically affects your ability to drive.”

But it’s not so easy to check drivers for drug use. The police can take a saliva sample but it’s more common to just look at a driver’s eyes. And oddly, if a driver tests positive for drink-driving, the police don’t check for drugs.

Doing its bit for public health, SvD informed readers that cannabis can lead to depression and affect the unborn foetus, perhaps leading to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. And just to make sure the message hit home, the paper wheeled out Jan Ramström, a psychiatrist and substance-abuse expert, who declared: “It’s time people started listening to us about the dangers of cannabis.”

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Industri

Jon Buscall