The coronavirus pandemic has yet to result in a decline in drug use in the capital region of Finland, according to wastewater studies conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). (Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva)


THE USE of amphetamine has increased to a record-high level in Greater Helsinki, suggest wastewater analyses conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

THL on Thursday reported that the use of amphetamine in the capital region has surged by approximately 15 per cent year-on-year since mid-March, when the Finnish government declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.

The use has thereby tripled since 2013.

“There is no way to show that the growing use of amphetamine is due to the exceptional situation caused by the coronavirus. It is a fact, however, that the use of amphetamine has been higher than ever this spring, at least in the capital region,” commented Teemu Gunnar, the director of forensic toxicology at THL.

No such change has been recorded in the use of methamphetamine, which remains low after peaking in Finland in 2016–2017.

Gunnar on Thursday pointed out that the restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus have not resulted, at least yet, in a decline in the use of any of the drugs assessed in wastewater analysis. The use of neither cocaine nor ecstasy has increased during the exceptional first half of the year.

The findings of the analyses can be considered surprising as some experts expected the restrictions to limit the supply of illicit drugs in Finland, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

The trend has also been visible in the daily work of police.

The Police of Finland has reported a year-on-year increase of roughly 40 per cent in the number of drug offences between January and April. Most of the increase, however, stems from a pre-trial investigation opened into an online marketplace called Silkkitie in 2019, according to Teemu Saukoniemi, a chief superintendent at the National Police Board.

“The number of drug offences has increased for years and continues to grow,” he summarised regardless.

Another indication of the upward trend is that, for the first time ever, drugs have overtaken alcohol as the leading cause of impaired driving cases, after rising by 846 cases from the previous year to 3,525 between January and April.

Heikki Ihalainen, a chief superintendent at the National Police Board, reminded that the increase may be partly attributable to certain side effects of the restrictions.

“Police have had more time than usual to deal with cases of impaired driving because all police trainings, for example, have been cancelled due to the coronavirus. There has also been less traffic, enabling us to detect abnormalities in traffic behaviour more effectively than usual,” he explained on Thursday.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT