Swedish drug policy has come to a crossroads
"Swedish drug policy has come to a crossroads. One direction calls for a significant augmentation of resources in the form of commitment, direction, competence and funding.
The other implies a lowering of sights and a considerable acceptance of drug abuse."
Those ominous words open the english summary of the official report on the drug situation in Sweden.
It is true. Sweden has the highest death rate among drug addicts in western Europe.
To swedish policy makers "harm reduction" is synonymous to "free dope".
The report states that the main responsibility for matters regarding drug use rests with the social authorities who, in Sweden, have quite an arsenal of compulsory measures directed towards the individual who does not comply with what is regarded as a "normal" way of life.
Most other countries regard drug use as a health problem. Of course this has consequensies:
In the whole of Sweden there is only one needle exchange program.
Methadone is available to 700 persons.
The number of heroin users exceeds 25 000.
The only health advice given by the health authorities is:
"Quit the dope".
The crossroads that our drug policy has come to depends on the fact that no governement money is directed to treatment facilities, the responsibilities for those are with the municipality, and they have other holes to put the money in.
So they do not send junkies to treatment homes.
They just wait until they get caught and the responsibilities are taken over by the state in the form of prisons.
Chez nous the concept of secondary damages is violently refuted by the political class.
You can hear people in high positions arguing about wether this or that drug is more "criminogenic".
Having been stoned is a crime.
You can get jail for a positive test reaction on any illegal drug.
Seeking help equals confessing a crime.
The report is not suggesting anything in the line of a radical change of policy except that every municipality should have an information center where people can learn about drugs without the risk of going to court for their sins.
But they will most likely not be manned by harm reductionist.
There are none availible.
The resistance to Swedish drug policy comes mainly from academic circles.
Researchers publish results that plainly show that people die from this policy, that the number of addicts is steadily rising and that their health is worse than among their collegues in the rest of the industrialized world.
So the researchers don´t get any more invitations to hearings.
We don´t have any drug users that have "come out".
They are to busy running from the law.
If a change is coming it is not because of an official report on the matter.
It is by international cooperation, passing on the "how to" of harm reduction to the junkies.
A clandestine approach to be sure: it´s a crime to teach people safer ways to take drugs.
Love to you all