Finland Country Drug Report 2017

Drug harms

Drug-related infectious diseases

In Finland, data on drug-related infectious diseases are collected by the THL, 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, with foreign nationals accounting for more than half of them. The number of HIV cases linked to drug injecting increased between 1997 and1999 but has decreased since then. The prevalence rate of HIV infection among a sample of people who inject drugs (PWID) in needle and syringe programmes in 2014 was relatively low, an estimated 1.19 %.

In recent years, the annual numbers of new cases of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection reported have fluctuated between 1 100 and 1 200. The likely mode of transmission was indicated in less than half of these individuals. Of the cases with an indication of mode of transmission, approximately half 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. Overall, the number of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections diagnosed has been decreasing in Finland; the means of transmission is identified in a small proportion of cases and, recently, none has been attributed solely to injecting drug use.

In general, there has been a significant decline in HIV and HBV 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. To address the issue of HCV infection, the first national strategy on HCV infection was adopted in 2016.

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 different licit and illicit substances. Patient records from the Helsinki Hospital District indicate that, among drug-related overdoses registered in 2014, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)/gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) are the substances found most frequently, followed by opioids and other psychoactive substances.

Newly diagnosed HIV cases attributed to injecting drug use

NBNB: Year of data 2015, or latest available year.
Source: ECDC.

Prevalence of HIV and HCV antibodies among people who inject drugs in Finland

NBYear of data 2014.


Characteristics of and trends in drug-induced deaths in Finland

NBYear of data 2015.

Drug-induced deaths and mortality

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

In 2015, data from the general mortality register indicated a decrease in the number of reported drug-induced deaths compared with 2012-14. In the period 2006-12, the number of drug-induced deaths generally increased, before levelling off. Toxicological data indicate that buprenorphine, usually in combination with alcohol or benzodiazepines, was involved in the majority of deaths. In 2015, the majority of the drug death victims were male. In one out of five deaths, an NPS was detected in the post-mortem toxicological analyses, of which alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP) and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) were the most commonly found.

The latest European average of drug-induced mortality rate among adults (aged 15-64 years) was 20.3 deaths per million. In Finland, this rate was 43.1 deaths per million in 2015. Comparison between countries should be undertaken with caution. Reasons include systematic under-reporting in some countries, different reporting systems and case definition and registration processes.

Drug-induced mortality rates among adults (15-64 years)

NB Year of data 2015, or latest available year. Comparison between the countries should be undertaken with caution.

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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.