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Amphetamine abuse at record levels in capital region, THL reports

For the first time drug-related road offences surpassed drunk driving violations, according to police data.

Poliisin tekemä pikahuumetesti.
Man given a quick test for illicit drugs. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

The use of amphetamines in the capital region has tripled since 2013 and abuse of the addictive drug reached record levels during the coronavirus crisis, according to wastewater analysis by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Despite the coronavirus-related restrictions and recommendations, there was no decline in the use of illicit drugs that are regularly tested for by the agency, according to THL forensic toxicologist Teemu Gunnar.

"There's no way to prove that the increase in amphetamine use is related to the exceptional circumstances that the coronavirus crisis has caused. But the fact is that amphetamines were used in larger quantities during the spring than at any time before - at least in the capital city region," Gunnar said in a THL statement issued Thursday.

Out of all drugs the agency tests for, amphetamines were the most commonly found drug in THL's wastewater analysis.

Similar studies in past years found a dramatic increase in cocaine use in the capital region during 2013-2019. Meanwhile, use of the drug known as ecstasy increased during 2013-2015 but has since remained at steady levels, according to the agency.

THL's regular wastewater analysis collects data on a total of 27 cities around the country, but only published the results from the Helsinki area on Thursday. The remainder are scheduled to be released in the autumn.

Drug crimes on rise

The number of illegal drug crimes have increased over the past several years and the rise appears to be continuing, according to Police Board inspector Teemu Saukkoniemi.

He said that cross-border travel restrictions, for example, have not seemed to have an effect on the levels of drug use, and there has actually been an increase.

One recent sign of that development was when the number of drug-related road offences exceptionally outnumbered drink-driving related crimes, taking place during the first few months of the year.

Saukkoniemi said that drugs were involved in more than 55 percent of suspected drunk driving cases during January-April at the national level, while in Helsinki the role drugs played in such cases was more than 72 percent.

The number of drug related road infractions during January-April of this year totalled 3,525, which was 846 more than in 2019.

Meanwhile the number of drunk driving offences fell by more than 50 percent since the start of the 2000s, while drugged-driving crimes more than doubled during 2013-2019.

However, the Police Board noted that this spring's increase was also due to the fact that officers have had more time to intervene in suspected drunk driving incidents, due to coronavirus-related cancellations of police training, for example.

The board also said that the reduced traffic due to the coronavirus restrictions made erratic drivers easier to spot.

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