It is time for Finland’s drug policy to reflect the times we live in by decriminalising drug use. The National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) wishes to see a science-based substance abuse policy from decision-makers, as research shows that the traditional substance abuse policy based on criminal law deepens social inequality and increases public health problems and social costs.
‘According to the European Drug Report 2022 by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Finland is the leading country in Europe for drug-related deaths among people under the age of 25. It is unacceptable that those in need of help are penalised, and that low-threshold services are unavailable or queues are too long’, says SYL President Konstantin Kouzmitchev.
Other forms of treatment are needed in addition to low-threshold services, such as substance abuse rehabilitation. Such rehabilitation is difficult to access, and can be prohibitively expensive for students. This can make it even harder for students of limited financial means or at risk of social exclusion to seek treatment. As a welfare state, Finland must provide better support for substance abuse rehabilitation and should guarantee free treatment for students. Every person who suffers from addiction is one too many.
When it comes to substance abuse policy, access to treatment is not the only problem. The latest Finnish Student Health and Wellbeing Survey (KOTT 2021) carried out by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) shows that 23.3 per cent of higher education students have tried or repeatedly used an intoxicating substance, medication or a combination of medication and alcohol at some time. A recorded drug offence can have an irreversible impact on a future student’s life. It is unreasonable that a person can be denied a study place or job on account of once experimenting with drugs.
‘Finland’s current harsh substance abuse policies are destroying people’s lives. We need to look boldly ahead and adopt a more humane drug policy’, Kouzmitchev says.
SYL wants to see action and an up-to-date substance abuse policy from decision-makers and universities, based on the following measures:
- Decriminalisation of drug use.
- Drug rehabilitation for students must be free of charge to the student.
- University staff need to be trained to identify students with substance abuse problems, and to take their needs into account and refer them for help.
- Universities must have early support models in place that provide clear and accessible guidance on how to act when a student’s substance use is a cause for concern.
President, National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL)
+358 44 906 5007