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Sweden targets cannabis use

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Sweden targets cannabis use
11:23 CEST+02:00
Cannabis use is increasing sharply in Sweden, particularly among young men in larger cities. Lower-income areas, where unemployment is high and education levels low are stricken especially hard by this development.

A government initiative to combat the growing cannabis use is now in the works.

Nearly 40 percent of boys in certain inner-city secondary schools in Stockholm have tried drugs at some point, showed a recent survey. This figure has risen by 10 percent in just 4 years.

At Maria Ungdom, the Stockholm clinic that handles drunkenness and drug use among young people, this development is referred to as an "epidemic".

"We're seeing historically high figures," said Stefan Sparring, manager of Maria Ungdom, to newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

"When enough people are using it, you reach a point where it's considered socially acceptable. I think we're nearing that point. Marijuana is no longer seen as stigmatising, since so many are using it. The same kids who're trying alcohol are now trying marijuana," he explained.

This is an opinion echoed by the police, who have also noticed problems with cannabis use accelerating.

"We're seeing a constant growth," said Ludvig Sandberg, detective inspector of the Stockholm police force.

The centre-right government is investing 50 million kronor ($7.7 million) in a bid to control this spread.

The money, which is the largest initiative against cannabis to date, will be used partly for an information campaign about the dangers of cannabis, but also in efforts to help young people at risk of addiction.

"We don't want to moralise, but simply show medical and judicial facts as arguments," explained Maria Larsson, the minister for children and elderly, to Dagens Nyheter.

"We've seen a dramatic growth of use, as well as of the percentage of school kids trying marijuana," she said.

The Swedish National Institute on Public Health (Folkhälsoinstitutet) will be in charge of developing a plan for the initiative, which will be presented later this fall.

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