Debate | Should drug use rooms be established in Finland? “All means available”, demands the Rkp candidate – “There are no employees”, says the Kd candidate

HS challenges the MP candidates to a debate on the most divisive questions of the election machine. In the second part of the series, politicians talk about drug use rooms.

“To Finland drug use rooms must be established.”

Completely agree, says Rkp’s parliamentary election candidate Frida Siegfrieds. Somewhat disagree, says the Christian Democrats Mika Poutala.

Drug use rooms are places where problem drug users can use drugs under the supervision of a healthcare worker. Currently, Finnish legislation does not allow them.

The question divided opinions in the HS election machine. The candidates of the Greens, the Left Alliance, Rkp and Sdp support the establishment of utility rooms the most. They are most opposed by the candidates of the Basic Finns and the Christian Democrats.

This story is part of a series in which HS challenges MP candidates to a debate about the most divisive issues in the election machine.

Both the debaters initially receive short opening statements.

Frida Sigfrids: “Every death is too much”

“We should establish drug use rooms in Finland, because two young people die from drugs every week in Finland. Finland also ranks first in drug-related deaths of people under the age of 25 in the whole of Europe. This shows that the current drug policy in Finland is not successful and something needs to be done differently than now.”

“I think every death is too many. That’s why it would be worthwhile, at least as an experiment, to introduce plug-in facilities. The Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) also published a report in January 2022 with various recommendations to prevent drug-related deaths. One of these recommendations was precisely that utility rooms should be tried and put into use.”

“One important thing is that there would always be competent staff there who would be able to help people out of their addiction when necessary. However, addiction is always a disease, and you need to get help for it. That threshold must be lowered. I see that operating rooms are one of the many methods that we should implement in Finland in order to reduce drug deaths.”

Mika Poutala: “The way drugs are used is so different here”

“Drug use and drug-related deaths are a big problem in Finland, and something must definitely be done about it. But in my opinion, drug use rooms are not the solution.”

“THL’s expert group on the prevention of drug deaths said in its report that operating rooms in Finland would not necessarily reduce poisoning deaths significantly. The majority of drug deaths are poisoning deaths. They are caused by a long-term effect in Finland [korvaushoidoissa käytettävän] simultaneous use of buprenorphine and central nervous system depressants, in which dangerous poisoning occurs slowly after several hours. Most likely, the person would have already left these rooms at that point.”

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“This simply wouldn’t work in Finland, because the way drugs are used is so different here. In other countries, the main causes of poisoning death are opioids such as heroin and strong synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and life-threatening conditions are quickly caused in them.”

“There is currently a crying shortage of social and healthcare personnel. Even if we get the funding for this, we don’t have the employees. This is a clear problem. We cannot hire employees from any elderly care for this.”

“I think with the same amount of money that would be put into the operating rooms – which is actually a lot, we’re talking about several hundred thousand euros per seat – a much more impressive and better work would be obtained if it were used in a different way.”

“All means must be used” – “This is not a large-scale solution”

Opening statements after, the speakers can comment on each other’s speeches.

Siegfried: “We both highlighted the THL report, but from slightly different perspectives. I think it is quite clear in the report that they are in favor of using utility rooms. THL is perhaps more on my side here.”

“Of course, the use of drugs in Finland is different than in other Nordic countries, where they have been introduced, for example in Norway and Denmark. When we talk about drug deaths, behind every statistic and number there is a person. Can we prevent the death of this one person? We have to do it and not just think that it’s not worth investing in these things.”

“The statistics are so worrying in Finland, especially regarding young people, that all means must be used.”

Poutala: “This is not a large-scale solution. A huge number of these rooms would be needed. In an interview, a former user said that he would never in the world go looking for a drug use room if it wasn’t right next door. If we want them right next door, there should be dozens of them even in Helsinki. Let’s start talking about investments of tens of millions in Helsinki alone.”

“If we invest tens of millions of euros in this matter, I believe that spending the money in another way would bring even better results. Even more lives could be saved. As Frida said, isn’t everyone’s life precious, absolutely. It’s not worth doing this just for the sake of saving even more people.”

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“We need to get the money to make them stop using. Not to make it easier or safer, but specifically completely out of it.”

Siegfried: “We can’t know what kind of effect the operating rooms would have when we haven’t even tried them. It is sad that we are wondering whether tens of millions of euros will be invested in Helsinki if we establish utility rooms, because that is not reality. We would certainly start with an experiment, where we would try with a few operating rooms. And after that, if it were a viable option, we would move further into Finland.”

Poutala: “It is also good to understand what effect the utility rooms would have on their surroundings. From the director of a treatment and reception center for drug users in Bergen, Norway From Hugo Torjussen has been asked in the interview, is there an open drug store in the area? He said it would be naive to say no, but of course drugs are being sold in the nearby area. According to him, it’s all about market mechanisms. He also said that the values ​​of the apartments in the nearby area have decreased.”

“The most common reason for police visits is that one of the visitors has a gun or a knife, or mutual violence occurs between users. And Bergen’s subway tunnels have become open drug centers occupied by users. He said that no one dares to go there because there is blood, vomit and garbage in the tunnel.”

“This is justified in order to get drug needles out of parks and elsewhere, but it doesn’t work that way. Drug users don’t obey when we tell them to use only there, not anywhere else.”

Siegfried: “Operating rooms would lower the threshold for seeking help. When it has worked in other parts of the world, why not in Finland, even though the use here is different.”

“We blame drug addicts in the Finnish political debate and perhaps forget that drug addiction is really a disease and many people also want to get out of it. In Finnish politics, blaming has not worked at all. That’s why I see that utility rooms would be places where you could safely enter. And you wouldn’t be afraid that, for example, the police would immediately arrest you if you seek help or want to talk to someone.”

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Poutala: “I completely agree with Frida that the use rooms would reduce the need to seek help and the users are blamed too much. That’s why I’m not at the extreme of not trying utility rooms under any circumstances. I understand that it has good effects as well. My point is, can you get a more efficient operation with the same money.”

What would be a more effective way to help drug addicts?

Poutala: “THL’s report has a total of eight points. The availability of services must be improved, there should be more mobile health counseling and, for example, walking or searching work, so that we actually go where there are users.”

“Another thing is a drug like naloxone, which helps at the time of an overdose. That is, giving naloxone for heavy users, but also to different people who serve drug users. Currently, according to the law, for some reason, it is not allowed. There should also be more and more courage in purely school complaints.”

Siegfried: “I think this is the whole. At this point, we must use all the means that research, science and, for example, THL show us. I see that the utility rooms are part of this whole.”

Poutala: “I would raise one more thing: the responsibility and safety of the staff. What is the staff’s responsibility if, for example, a death occurs there? How to ensure the safety of the staff and also the safety of the users? For example, violence and sexual violence experienced by women is common among users.”

Siegfried: “This is a really good point. Since this has worked in many other countries, we will probably be able to learn their practices from there and take them here to Finland, especially in terms of staff.”

What was the other’s best argument?

Poutala: “All of the things that Frida thinks utility rooms bring, I completely agree with all of them. But like I said, I look more at the investment versus the benefits.”

Siegfried: “Mika had a lot of arguments that we both agree on, for example the challenges in what happens around the utility rooms.”

Read the first part of the story series here:

Read more: “For sure, we can get logging without limiting the equation to work”, says the centrist – “It doesn’t seem possible”, replies the green

The editors have summarized the discussion points.

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