A man holding a syringe in Helsinki in December 2020. Proponents of drug consumption rooms believe they could reduce, for example, the amount of drug paraphernalia discarded in public. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNISH PARLIAMENT will debate a citizens’ initiative to trial supervised drug consumption rooms after the initiative received the requisite 50,000 statements of support on Monday, 25 July.

YLE on Monday pointed out that the criminalisation of drug use and possession has previously been regarded as an obstacle to such a trial in Finland.

The rooms would enable the use of illicit drugs under the supervision of health care professionals, thereby ensuring that users experiencing any complications can receive assistance without delay. They are also believed to reduce public disturbances and reduce the amount of drug paraphernalia discarded in public spaces.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in January estimated that drug consumption rooms are a recommended measure to reduce drug-related deaths. The City of Helsinki, meanwhile, proposed as early as three years ago that the government adopt laws that enable trialling the rooms, but the proposal was never brought up by the government.

Statistics Finland has reported that the number of drug-related deaths has increased from 134 in 2000 to 258 in 2020.

An alarming aspect of the situation is that under 25-year-olds account for a higher proportion of drug-related deaths, almost 30 per cent, in Finland than anywhere else in the European Union, Norway or Turkey, according to the European Drug Report 2022.

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Aki Lindén (SDP) estimated in an earlier interview with the public broadcasting company that even though a consumption room trial could produce valuable information, it would require legislative amendments drafted collaboratively by several ministries.

STT on Thursday reported that the idea of establishing supervised drug consumption rooms is a contested one among parliamentary parties. The Green League, Left Alliance and Swedish People’s Party are supportive of the idea, while the National Coalition and Social Democrats are open to it with some reservations.

“Consumption rooms increase safety for both users and other people. Consumption rooms can be used to promote users’ understanding of services and reduce overdoses, fatal drug poisonings and drug use on the streets,” a spokesperson for the Left Alliance stated to STT.

The Social Democratic Party viewed in its response that it would be important to collect more detailed data on how supervised consumption rooms would work and what kind of effects they would have specifically in Finland.

The parties opposed to the idea estimated widely that the rooms would not be an effective means to tackle problems caused by drug use.

The Christian Democratic Party expressed its concern that the rooms would make drug use more acceptable, while the Finns Party gauged that they could exacerbate the drug problem. The Centre Party did not specify why it is opposed to the idea.

Some 90 drug consumption rooms have been established in eight countries in Europe, according to the news agency.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT