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Mum slams minister over Swedish MP's drug death

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Mum slams minister over Swedish MP's drug death
08:55 CEST+02:00
The mother of late Swedish MP William Petzäll, who died last week after a long battle with drug addiction, blasted what she saw as government foot-dragging on efforts to better Sweden's drug addiction treatment policies.

"I don't understand what's taking so long. Maria Larsson has to realize she needs to hurry. Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen," Petzäll's mother Annika told the Expressen newspaper.

The comments came following a televised debate on Sverges Television (SVT) on Sunday night including Maria Larsson, Sweden's Minister for Children and the Elderly who handles the public health portfolio, and opposition MP Hillevi Larsson of the Social Democrats.

Following the death of Petzäll, 24, a debate has heated up in Sweden over how the country should deal with drug addicts.

Critics, including Petzäll, argue that Sweden's current policies are overly moralizing and treat addicts like criminals, often with fatal results.

According to SVT, there were 487 drug-related deaths in Sweden last year, the highest figure ever recorded.

Social Democrat MP Hillevi Larsson argued that methadone treatment in Sweden should be expanded.

"There is a lot of research that shows methadone saves lives, yet we limit access," she said.

"The queues take years and people are dropping like flies."

She added that there are many cases where addicts are thrown out of treatment programmes for relapses, despite a lack of research supporting such actions.

"Mortality goes up twenty-fold for those who are thrown out," Hillevi Larsson said on SVT.

Minister Maria Larson of the Christian Democrats admitted there were deficiencies in Sweden's drug addiction treatment system and that queues were too long.

"Addiction and dependency treatment has been made a lower priority by many county councils. What's important to point out is that there is insufficient access to methadone in the country," Maria Larsson told SVT.

"It's not acceptable that we can't meet the need."

However, when asked whether she would see to it to increase access to methadone treatment promgrammes, the minister responded that the government has already engaged in a nationwide awareness effort and created an watchdog body in order to see exactly what the situation is in different counties and municipalities.

Discussion also turned to a government inquiry on the matter, ordered by Maria Larsson and completed 18 months ago, which found that Sweden had failed in its aim to provide addicts treatment.

Larsson explained that nothing has happened in part because comments on the inquiry have been so varied.

"All 25 comments have different opinions," she said, adding that the government promised to act on the inquiry before next summer.

However, the minister's response didn't sit well with Social Democrat MP Hillevi Larsson, who demanded the government "do something" with the inquiry.

And the mother of the late MP Petzäll, also took the government and Maria Larsson to task for being slow to come up with new legislation based on the inquiry.

"This inquiry has been sitting there finished for a long time," Annika Petzäll told Expressen.

"[Maria Larsson] is going to have more lives on her conscience the longer she waits."

Petzäll believes her son would still be alive if he had been able to received treatment in another part of the country.

"I think Maria Larsson could at least promise to offer addicts treatment in other counties if their own are incompetent," Petzäll told the paper.

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