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Sweden hits drug supply and demand

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15:47 CEST+02:00
Record levels of drugs have been seized by Swedish customs officials in the last three months, according to figures released this week.

Aftonbladet reported that 30 million crowns worth of narcotics was stopped at borders including 136kg of cannabis, 7kg of heroin, 51kg of amphetamines, 10kg of opium, 400kg of Kat (also known as African tea or Arabian tea) and 3kg of cocaine.

Most of the big seizures were made at the border between Sweden and Denmark and were usually well-hidden in cars.

"Most of it is taken by the bridge, but some is also confiscated in Gothenburg and Ystad." said Lars Rosenquist, customs officer in Malmö.

"It's fantastic that we've had such good results," says Karl Gunnheden, who is the chief for Swedish Custom's Crime Control. "It usually goes up and down, but this time we managed to catch many couriers at the same time."

According to Gunnhagen, the sum of the penalties for drug-smuggling just for the last two and a half months is 150 years. He estimated that Sweden will save a total of 240 million crowns, mostly in medical costs, thanks to these apprehensions.

While the police and customs are working on one side, a special program is being developed to help teenagers to become drug-free. The idea is to start treating teenagers immediately after they have been arrested for being under the influence of an illegal substance. According to Dagens Nyheter, the government is investing 1.3 million crowns in the program.

Today's procedure is simply to drive teenagers to a police station where a report is made. After that, months can go by before they are contacted by their community and offered help.

"It is easier to motivate teenagers to enter a rehabilitation program right after the arrest. An immediate reaction is decisive so teenagers don't become more addicted," explains Walter Kegö, who works for the program 'Mobilization against Drugs'.

The program's goal is to ensure that fewer teenagers come into contact with drugs and to help those who are already addicted. The scheme will be trialled for a year, during which time teenagers who are arrested will be taken to 'Maria Ungdom', a medical centre for teenagers in Stockholm. Those under the influence will be fined, will receive medical care and parents will be contacted.

Walter Kegö told DN that the estimated cost (for the entire country) for treating drug addicts is somewhere between 50 to 100 million crowns a day in medical care and social benefits. He is not sure why a program like this has never been created before.

"We have tried to get social services to cooperate at an earlier point, but it was just not possible. That's why we are trying this instead. The authorities in Sweden: police, social services and customs, are working with their own budgets in isolation instead of working together."

They estimate that a total of 800 teenagers will benefit from this program.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Aftonbladet

Melissa de Sieni

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