Helsingin Sanomat (Finlande) du 22 mai 2000.

Contact: international@sanoma.fi

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A change has occurred in the treatment of drug users. A bill coming into effect in July has been passed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, under which methadone programmes will be made available for heroin users at all university hospitals and health centres throughout Finland.

The primary intention of the new proposal is not necessarily to wean addicts off the drug, but rather to prevent the spreading of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis and to reduce crime. It is supposed that drug users under the methadone treatment - which has proved to be effective in helping heroin addicts get off the drug - will no longer have to commit crimes in order to support their expensive habit. The Ministry also believes that it is necessary to provide intravenous drug users with clean syringes and needles.

Methadone programmes have already begun at the university hospitals of Helsinki, Kuopio and Oulu. Follow-up treatment should also be provided by health centres, polyclinics, prisons and other places.

The sharp increase in the number of heroin users is explained as the reason for the new treatment programme. Heroin causes dependency, deaths and the spreading of infectious diseases. In Finland there are at least 10,000 intravenous drug users, 60 % of who are homeless.