Finland Country Drug Report 2018

Harm reduction

Finnish harm reduction services were established in the late 1990s and are implemented by municipal bodies. The Government Resolution on the Action Plan to Reduce Drug Use and Related Harm 2016-19 puts an emphasis on further expansion of coverage and continuity of harm reduction interventions.

In Finland, harm reduction services are delivered through outreach work and local health counselling centres. In addition, some harm reduction activities are carried out at treatment units. Outreach work mainly involves street patrols, with the aim of mediating between drug users and the official care system. Peer work is used in several locations and focuses on reaching the most excluded groups of drug users. Health counselling centres that provide sterile injecting equipment to prevent infectious diseases are located mainly in cities with more than 100 000 inhabitants and are available at 38 locations across Finland.

Harm reduction interventions

The key components of the Finnish harm reduction services are provision of injecting equipment; rapid, anonymous point-of-care testing for human immunodeficiency virus infection and provision of vaccination; referral to treatment services; case management; and provision of information on drug-related diseases and risks, such as overdoses.

According to the available data, the number of clients using needle and syringe programmes at health counselling centres almost doubled over the period 2001-15, and the number of syringes given out also increased. Needles and syringes can also be purchased without medical prescription at most pharmacies in Finland, and pharmacies play a key role in needle and syringe provision in areas where there are no health counselling centres. Vaccination against hepatitis A and B viruses is free for people who inject drugs (PWID) as part of the general vaccination programme. The available data indicate that more than one third of PWID in contact with the drug treatment system have received full vaccination, and more than half have received at least one dose.

The first national hepatitis C virus strategy, for 2017-19, was adopted in 2016; it aims to increase access to treatment with direct-acting antivirals.

Availablity of selected harm reduction responses in Europe
Country Needle and syringe programmes Take-home naloxone programmes Drug consumption rooms Heroin-assisted treatment
Austria Yes No No No
Belgium Yes No No No
Bulgaria Yes No No No
Croatia Yes No No No
Cyprus Yes No No No
Czech Republic Yes No No No
Denmark Yes Yes Yes Yes
Estonia Yes Yes No No
Finland Yes No No No
France Yes Yes Yes No
Germany Yes Yes Yes Yes
Greece Yes No No No
Hungary Yes No No No
Ireland Yes Yes No No
Italy Yes Yes No No
Latvia Yes No No No
Lithuania Yes Yes No No
Luxembourg Yes No Yes Yes
Malta Yes No No No
Netherlands Yes No Yes Yes
Norway Yes Yes Yes No
Poland Yes No No No
Portugal Yes No No No
Romania Yes No No No
Slovakia Yes No No No
Slovenia Yes No No No
Spain Yes Yes Yes No
Sweden Yes No No No
Turkey No No No No
United Kingdom Yes Yes No Yes

Finland main page

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.