Gerhard Larsson, who leads the government-mandated inquiry into addiction, is set to present proposals in April on changes to procedures for dealing people who are intoxicated.
Roughly 100,000 times per year, Swedish police are called upon to deal with people in accordance with Sweden’s law on the apprehension of intoxicated people (Lag om omhändertagande av berusade personer–LOB).
The 1976 law gives police the right to apprehend people who, due to alcohol or drug use, are unable to care of themselves or present a danger to themselves or others.
Most people end up under arrest and spend time in police station jail cells.
“Police are forced to make all too difficult medical evaluations of those who are intoxicated,” Larsson told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
On average, five people die every year while in arrest or in transit to the police stations, Larsson added.
In order to increase safety, he proposes that Sweden’s county councils, which are responsible for administering the country’s publicly-funded healthcare system, should create sobriety centres where intoxicated people can be taken.
Another benefit is that those who are intoxicated will come in contact with healthcare professionals and can be offered help.
Larsson, who served previously as board chair for the St. Göran’s and Sophiahemmet hospitals in Stockholm and also represented Sweden at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, believes the changes would result in more people entering into programmes to treat their addiction.
In rural areas, or when they are too aggressive to enter a sobriety centre, intoxicated people could be placed under arrest, but a medical assessment still should be carried out by a healthcare professional, according to tine inquiry.
Currently, there are only eleven sobriety centres in all of Sweden.