Major study highlights drug hotspots

If the number of articles about a social issue can be taken as an indication of its gravity, Sweden's drug problem is getting worse.

The country’s major cities are suffering the usual “bright lights, big city” effects. Drugs abound in Gothenburg’s nightclubs according to employees and anyone passing through four notorious spots in Stockholm will find it hard to avoid bumping into the dealers.

Two government surveys this week revealed troublesome trends in the country. Nearly half – 46 percent – of the nightclub employees surveyed in Gothenburg said they have seen drugs offered to a guest. Göteborgs Posten reported that 77 percent of staff said they encounter guests who are already high on drugs.

The most common substance is marijuana, followed by cocaine, ecstasy, and uppers. GP wrote that the first major survey about drugs in Sweden’s nightlife also included answers from police, politicians, and union representatives.

Björn Fries, parliament’s coordinator of the survey, said the situation appears to be worsening in Malmö as well as in Gothenburg, but that this report gives the police and health organisations a basis for working with the region’s bars and restaurants.

“It’s not just an internal problem,” he told GP. “It’s a problem within all of society.”

One woman who frequents a nightclub told GP’s reporter she never has to ask for drugs.

“They just show up,” said the self-described recreational cocaine user. “I do it because it’s fun. I feel more energetic, happier, and more attractive when I use cocaine.”

She told the newspaper she often takes drugs after she’s had a few drinks at the nightclub.

“When I have a husband and kids, I’ll quit,” she says.

Sweden’s parliament has also asked Stockholm’s social secretary Olli Puhakka to examine the drug problem in the county. Based on interviews with addicts, police, and social workers, Puhakka has identified four areas where drugs are readily available: Sergelstorg, Gullmarsplan, and the suburbs of Rinkeby and Tensta Centrum.

“The availability is unlimited and it’s definitely a buyer’s market,” Puhakka told last week’s Dagens Nyheter. “The number of addicts is always on the rise; few quit, and new users are coming all the time.”

He saw one bright spot, and that is that fewer ninth-graders are trying drugs.

Puhakka’s report conclude that better coordination is necessary between police, social services and local authorities.

At a debate on the matter, public health minister Morgan Johansson said that the government was investing 820 million crowns over the next three years, with the goal of providing treatment to more addicts.

He also said that the government would be expecting local authorities and social services to work together. But Stockholm’s chief of police, Carin Götblad, said that they also need to work better with the police and make sure they pick up cases where the police leaves them.

“In my experience the work the police does is often wasted,” she said. “Our investment isn’t followed up by the social services.”

Olli Puhakka was unimpressed.

“These are all fine words,” he said. “But I’ve heard it all before. The chances of breaking misuse are better the earlier you invest. Prevention is critical. Choking supply is important, as is shocking young people who are on the road to addiction.”

Dodi Axelson

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Göteborgs Posten