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Police bust record number of drug-drivers

Last year, 92 percent of the 7,600 blood samples tested for prescription medicines or illegal drugs were positive. In contrast, drunk driving has decreased.

Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

The number of drivers testing positive for narcotics has increased while fewer people are caught driving drunk, figures released on Wednesday show.

Statistics from the National Bureau of Investigation reveal that Finland’s 12 police regions, the Border Guard and the Customs sent 12,000 blood samples to the Criminal Intelligence and Forensic Laboratory for further testing in 2017.

Some 7,600 were tested for drugs and 6,400 for alcohol. Some were tested for both. Compared with 2016, the number of samples where the driver was suspected of taking drugs increased by 15 percent. In some 92 percent of cases, the result came out positive.

The most commonly used substances were amphetamine, benzodiazepines and cannabis.

Most of the samples that tested positive for prescription medicines or illicit drugs came from Helsinki and the police district of Central Finland, which includes both Tampere and Jyväskylä.

Cultural change in substance use

Cultural changes in all areas of society, including substance use, first take place in large centres, according to Assistant Police Commissioner Samppa Holopainen from the National Police Board.

"Traditionally, the older generations drink alcohol, while the consumption of drugs is more common among the young," Holopainen told Yle.

According to Holopainen, the activity of the police also factors in the statistics, especially in Central Finland, where traffic monitoring has become more effective in recent years.

In less urban areas, most samples sent to the laboratory focused on measuring the blood alcohol level. This was particularly the case in Eastern Finland and Oulu.

Nonetheless, in most cases where drivers in Finland were caught driving under the influence, alcohol was to blame. This is because only blood samples, not the breathalyzer tests conducted by the police departments, were included in the statistics.