-The concerning rise in drug deaths-
In an era where retrieving drugs can be more or less, as simple as an order from the internet, a delivery to your doorstep like pizza, getting your hands on drugs is easier than ever.
Considering even this revelation alone, the boost in drug-related deaths might not come as a big shocker to you.
Even so, drug-related deaths are often invisible in the eyes of the society, due to the heavily criminalized and stigmatized image that drug abusers carry. Yet, as the peek in death numbers remains a worrisome occurrence, this matter can not be overlooked. As a future social services worker myself, i cannot help but ponder on this issue.
That brings me here, assembling questions such as what stands behind these booming death numbers ,who do they include and ultimately, is there something that can be done to diminish the severity of this dispute?
In light of reinforcing inclusion, here´s hoping that by bringing forward this incidence i will be able to raise awareness, increase empathy and thus, humanize drug abusers.
So what are the statistics on drug-related deaths?
The number of drug-related deaths increased by 61 from the previous year to 261 in Finland in 2018, according to data published by Statistics Finland.
(Teivainen, HS.fi, 2019)
When coming across at the statistics of drug related-deaths, a spike in numbers is observed. Nonetheless, the nature of the cause of these deaths differ in between.
The majority of the deaths (169), were categorized as accidental poisonings from multiple substances. This involves, the use of drugs with substances such as alcohol and psychotropic substances. The biggest relative increase, however, was recognized in deaths caused by long-term drug use, which jumped from 29 to 49 in 2017–2018.
Drugs were also used to commit 35 suicides, which represents an increase of 13 from 2017. (tilastokeskus, 2019)
To put these statistics into perspective, there were 4.7 drug deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in Finland in 2018. More than 70 percent of drug-related deaths were men, but the majority of drug-related suicides were committed by women.
Finland — 7th highest number of drug deaths in EU
Source: Yle newsletter2019
“Ilo ilman viinaa on teeskentelyä” –“joy without liquor is a pretense”, in the words of an old Finnish saying.
Among this, you have probably stumbled upon some jest about Finns special relationship with alcohol before. For all the widespread wit that comes along with this stereotyped image of Finns vast alcohol consumption, how frank is this stereotype? Moreover, despite alcohol, is Finland´s consumption stats on other substances relatively high too? Let´s talk numbers.
According to the EMCDDA drug report, Finland has the seventh highest number of drug deaths in the EU, relative to population. The intensified drug deaths indicate the increased substance abuse nationwide.
The majority of drug-related deaths are polydrug intoxications, in which a person has used psychiatric drugs and / or alcohol in addition to drugs. The most common was drug and medication use. Three out of four drug-related deaths were related to opioid abuse. The most active substances were largely synthetic drug opioids.
Alcohol-related deaths consists alcohol-related diseases and accidental alcohol poisoning. More than half of alcohol-related deaths were due to liver disease caused by alcohol use.
(sources: THL tilastot)
What age groups are the drug deaths including?
Taking up the scoop of whom are the drug-related death numbers representing, can offer a broader understanding of the substance abuse issue in Finland.
The increase in drug-related deaths was observed in all age groups but, especially, in the 20–29 group, according to Statistics Finland. Drug-related deaths in the country, focus on younger age groups than in Europe, where such deaths occur on average at the age of 33, as seen on the graph below.
Questions arising, what is the link between the relation of different age-groups and drug consumption? What factors drive the highest consuming age-groups to drug consumption and thus, to death?
A life ungrievable?
The hardship that the passing of an individual can bring upon to their close ones can be immense. However, when referring to one´s death that is linked to drugs, the mourning aspect is somehow left unacknowledged.
“Well they had that coming, that junkie brought that to themselves”. Something along these lines is what represents the extensive, toxic ideology within the society apropos of drug abusers and their demise.
It is as if someone’s death is linked to their drug use, they are less likely to be granted “ideal victim” status, thus making them undeserving of mourning. Drug abusers are expected to be rogue criminals due to the stigma, disrepute and fear over their image. Not only does this fall to a harmful stereotyped thinking but it also promotes the dehumanization of individuals.
Bottom line, a loss is a loss. What led a person to make detrimental choices is a thing itself. Yet, that does not diminish the human value that one holds. Even so, that person, could have had a fully enriched life whereas they have shared many cherishable memories with their close ones. Hence, a drug abuser´s life is indeed grievable.
What about the close ones of the deceased?
-The power of peer support groups-
On an eye-opening interview with an employee of a drug prevention organization, i had the opportunity to gain plenty of insight on how an organization such as this works.
The organization the interviewee represented, was greatly based in offering support for the closed ones of the substance abusers. One thing that was mentioned by the employee during the interview, were the peer support groups that they assembled in their organization.
The peer support groups are held for the closed ones of substance abusers. They focus on on yielding assistance and comfort to them, in regard of any concerns related to their contact´s substance abuse or the probable issues induced by it. The services in this organization, are chiefly provided online through their website.
Peer support groups such as these exist in corresponding substance abuse organizations, with the distinction of operating as support groups for those of which have lost close ones to drugs. These peer support groups, work as a stable, shame-free and safe place for those who seek comfort and strength after their loss.
Whilst the peer support groups do not work as drug preventive work, they reinforce inclusion by working as a catalyst for stigmas and elevate empathy among the image of drug abusers. This is being accomplished by having those lost by drugs, acknowledged as individuals deserving of grieving.
The peer support groups also give a chance to their closed ones to mourn their loss in a place where they know their pain is going to be heard and understood, rather than having it discredited due to the heavily stigmatized image of their departed loved ones.
How do we take this matter into our hands?
As the question remains, what initiatives can be taken in pursuance of seeing those drug-death numbers shrink? Moreover, what are the causes behind the booming numbers in drug- deaths? Is fluent drug availability the only trigger to point at? Or does this occurrence stand for a more multilayered issue whereas there is need for a more vast reform in multiple sectors?
Being that this may stand for a multi-faceted matter, as a future professional in the social sector field, i persist to reflect as to what aspects of this problem can i affect and how?
These, among other concerns related to substance abuse, ought to be examined, so that possible propositions can be made in light of lessening the challenges brought by it.
Through our blog spot Breaking the circle, we prompt to review and discuss these lingering apprehensions.