Study finds more moderation in Finnish attitudes toward illegal drugs
Shift in media attention seen
Finns are taking an increasingly relaxed view of the problems related to illegal drugs, according to a study by the National Public Health Institute.
One expert believes that the reason for the trend is that people have begun to accept that drugs are a part of society and everyday life. Knowledge about the issue has also increased in recent years.
"Drugs were the greatest cause for concern among rural women, whose lives were least affected by them", says Antti Uutela, head of the health promotion section of the National Public Health Institute.
Drugs aroused more fear in the early part of the decade. According to Uutela, anxiety was enhanced by factors such as large number of drug-related deaths in Turku and the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users. The media reported heavily on both issues.
There have been fewer news items of such tragedies in recent times. Media attention has focused on major drug busts as well as suspicions of drug use among celebrities.
There has also been more news on drug treatment and needle exchange programmes. Uutela believes that the messages of successful enforcement and harm-reduction have reduced worries about the drug problem.
Uutela welcomes the less severe attitudes toward drugs. For instance, he is relieved that calls for drug testing in schools have faded away.
"Those with more knowledge on the matter have never supported drug tests. An occasional user might have been expelled from school, and then become marginalised. Even someone who has a problem needs to be helped, not kicked out."
The National Public Health Institute surveyed Finns' attitudes about drug issues in 2001-2007. Opinions were asked of 5,000 Finns aged 15 to 64, who were chosen at random.