From time to time the issue of how to handle the drug problem springs up in national media here in Norway. Questions like whether we should hand out drugs to addicted, whether to provide indoor organized guidance and equipment for the addicted, or the possibility of legalization of certain drugs pops up about every second year. We hear terrible stories of what the users have to cope with on a daily basis just to survive – just to get enough money for the next shot. After a while, however, the media’s attention turns. They become tired of the issue, and move on to the next hot topic, normally something involving celebrities or sex, preferrably combined. Everyone forgets about the drug victims, and nothing happens.
Forskning.no, a Norwegian website publishing new local and international science research recently had an article about how many drug-related deaths Norway has had the last ten years. I nearly fell off my chair when I read the article.
Norway has had 3.000 deadly overdoses the last ten years! I have not seen the numbers divided per year, but evenly distributed this means we have 300 deaths drug-related deaths every year. An other worrying number: This is 70 deaths per million citizens, compared to only 7 per million citizens in France!
How come this doesn’t get any more media attention than a few articles in Forskning.no (article) and NRK.no (article)? Where are the big headlines? Where are the public outcries demanding more resources allocated to helping the unfortunate drug addicts? Where are the petitions? Where are the journalists grilling the politicians live on TV? We’re only ten days away from the election here in Norway, and yet nobody seems to care!
Just for comparison I looked up some other numbers from Statistics Norway, specifically statistics of traffic-related deaths. This has always been a very hot topic in Norway, where the public outcry (and a very popular topic for Norwegian newspapers every summer holiday) has been that we need more money to make the roads safer for all of us.
Last year, in 2008, we spent over 15 billion Norwegian kroner on our roads, over 10% more compared to what was spent in 2006. I’m not suggesting that it’s a bad idea to spend much money on making the roads better and safer. My question is, however, how we can spend billion upon billion on traffic safety, and perhaps save 50 people from being killed every year, when if we only had spent half a fraction of this amount on prevention, treatment and help for drug addicts, we probably could have saved 250 lives every year! Not to speak of how the crime rates would have plummeted if we could handle the drug-problems in a better fashion.
Are we not created equal? Are we not of equal value to the society? In reality, it’s evident we are not, and I’m not so naive that I would think otherwise. But that the difference is this grotesque, shocked me.
It’s time to step up and actually try to do something about all the drug-related problems in Norway. It’s time to ask ourselves if we’re doing enough. And – are we doing the right things? Norwegian drug politics have not changed much the last ten years – perhaps it’s about time to stop and ask ourselves if we’re doing enough, if we’re spending our resources right.
We’re not paying attention, and in the meantime, nearly one person dies of an overdose, every day.