Addicts die after smoking pain-relief patches

After several deaths in southern Sweden have been linked to the use the drug fentanyl, a pain-relief patch meant for cancer patients, local police are now calling it the “most serious drug problem” in the area.

Addicts die after smoking pain-relief patches

”This is not acceptable. We have to put a stop to these deaths considering the fact that these patches are in circulation. All of society has to lend a hand,” said Ingmar Nilja of the Halland police to Sveriges Radio (SR).

The patches are manufactured to be used by cancer patients suffering from chronic pain.

They are made to give off the right dose of fentanyl every hour. The addicts, however, get the full dose in one go by eating or – more often – smoking the patch through a bong pipe.

According to experts, the incorrect use of the patch is extremely dangerous, giving users a dose that can be a hundred times more potent than heroin.

“Many who use this stuff, use it instead of heroin. But it is not a substitute, it is much stronger. And it doesn’t give a buzz either, it doesn’t relax the user like heroin does. It is simply toying with death,” Kaj Knudsen, specialist and drugs expert at the Gothenburg Sahlgrenska hospital, told daily Dagens Nyheter (DN) earlier this year.

Six people in Halland County died in 2011 from using the drug and several others have been admitted at the hospital in Gothenburg after suffering from side effects caused by smoking or eating the patches.

Since the beginning of January, police in Halland have received two more reports of fentanyl-related deaths.

According to police, one of the victims had a legal prescription for the drug.

The use of fentanyl by addicts seems to still be limited to southern parts of the country and the west coast, according to Stewe Alm, analyst at the National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalen).

“From our perspective it is important to see what can be done to stop the handful of doctors who prescribe these and other narcotic-classified products too generously,” Alm told news agency TT.

Police in southern Sweden are now classifying fentanyl use as the currently most serious drug problem in the area.

“Most of the eight that we suspect died because of the fentanyl patches had a history of drug problems. That is a common denominator,” said Nilja to SR.

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Three Swedish regions hike cost of visiting a doctor

From the start of January, the patient fees for a doctor's visit were increased in three Swedish regions, according to the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKR).

Three Swedish regions hike cost of visiting a doctor
In Sweden, healthcare costs vary depending on where in the country you live. Photo: Isabell Höjman / TT

In Sweden, the 21 regions are responsible for healthcare, which means fees as well as things like waiting times vary depending on where in the country you live.

In the Sörmland region, it was previously free to visit a primary care doctor, but as of 2019 there is a cost of 200 kronor.

And in the Uppsala and Örebro regions, the fee for a doctor's appointment was raised from 150 to 200 kronor.

Örebro also raised the fee for visiting a specialist, from 280 to 300 kronor, while in Uppsala this kind of visit has got cheaper after a reduction of the fee from 330 to 260 kronor.

In the rest of Sweden's regions, the cost of a trip to the doctor remains the same as in 2018.

It is also possible to get medical assistance through a digital appointment, and the fees for this range from 100 to 300 kronor, again depending on the region.