Finland Country Drug Report 2018

Drug harms

Drug-related infectious diseases

In Finland, data on drug-related infectious diseases are collected by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, which operates the National Infectious Diseases Register, while additional information is collected through bio-behavioural studies among clients of low-threshold centres.

Annual numbers of newly detected cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection have remained stable in recent years. The prevalence rate of HIV infection among a sample of people who inject drugs in needle and syringe programmes in 2014 was relatively low.

In recent years, annual numbers of reported new cases of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection have fluctuated between 1 100 and 1 200. Of the cases with a known mode of transmission, the majority were linked to injecting drug use. Approximately three quarters of clients in the needle and syringe programme tested positive for HCV in 2014, and the prevalence was considerably higher among those older than 34 years.

Prevalence of HIV and HCV antibodies among people who inject drugs in Finland (%)
region HCV HIV
Year of data: 2014
National : :
Sub-national 74.02 1.2

In general, there has been a significant decline in HIV and hepatitis B virus infections linked to injecting drug use in Finland over the last decade. However, the prevalence of HCV infection has remained fairly stable. It is believed that sharing injecting paraphernalia remains an important transmission route for HCV in Finland.

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Drug-related emergencies

Data on drug-related acute emergencies in Finland originate from the Hospital Discharge Register data. In 2014, approximately 10 000 drug-related emergencies were reported; however, in nearly 6 000 cases, the substance involved was not specified. Most people with non-fatal drug-related poisonings had taken several licit and illicit substances. Patient records from the Helsinki Hospital District indicate that, in drug-related overdoses registered in 2014, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) were the substances found most frequently, followed by opioids and other psychoactive substances.

Drug-induced deaths and mortality

Drug-induced deaths are deaths that can be attributed directly to the use of illicit drugs (i.e. poisonings and overdoses).

In 2016, data from the general mortality register indicated a slight rise in the number of reported drug-induced deaths compared with 2015. In the period 2006-12, the number of drug-induced deaths generally increased, before decreasing in 2013-15. Toxicological data indicate that buprenorphine, usually in combination with alcohol or benzodiazepines, was involved in the majority of deaths. In 2016, the majority of the victims were male. In 1 out of 8 deaths, a new psychoactive substance, such as alpha-PVP, MDPV and various synthetic opioid derivatives, was detected in the post-mortem toxicological analyses.

The latest European average drug-induced mortality rate among adults (aged 15-64 years) was 21.8 deaths per million. In Finland, this rate was 53.1 deaths per million in 2015. Comparison between countries should be undertaken with caution. Reasons include different reporting systems and case definition and registration processes, as well as under-reporting in some countries.

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.