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Pia Rosenqvist and Kerstin Stenius


AIMS - Starting from the notion of the Finnish “non-medical approach” in the handling of alcohol and drug problems, this article analyses expressions of the medicalisation of drug problems and drug users in Finnish social work and specialised substance abuse treatment. The article focuses on the first drug wave, in the 1960s, and the second, at the end of the 1990s. DESIGN - The data consists of all texts on illegal drugs found in the years 1968-1972 and 1997-2001 in two leading journals of social work, one from the social care and social service field, the other issued by the key provider of specialist substance abuse treatment. The texts were systematically analysed (author(s), problem descriptions, suggested solutions, and words used for the problem and the drug user). RESULTS - In both periods, we found in the journals a social perspective on drugs and drug problems. There is more emphasis on prevention and more optimism on the possibilities of prevention in the first than in the second period. During the first period the call for medicine or medical solutions are few and the medical voices rare. Medical expertise gets more space in both journals in the second period. The predominant understanding of the problem changes from drugs as part of a new youth culture, possibly an epidemic in the first period, to a dependence/ addiction in the second. The description of the user shifts from a young person to a (marginalised) dependent or addict. The proposed solutions in the 1960s are (youth focused) social policy and social change, while the 1990s solutions highlight refined treatment and more specific interventions. The society seems difficult to change, and so do the established institutions. CONCLUSIONS - The medicalisation of the Finnish perspective on drugs in the 1990s is expressed through a narrowing of perspective on illegal drugs as social problems. While present, the social perspective is impotent.

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Pia Rosenqvist, Astrid Skretting and Kerstin Stenius

Open access

Hans Melberg, Pekka Hakkarainen, Esben Houborg, Marke Jääskeläinen, Astrid Skretting, Mats Ramstedt and Pia Rosenqvist

Measuring the harm of illicit drug use on friends and family

AIMS - This paper explores different approaches to quantify the human costs related to drug use. DATA AND METHODS - The data come from a representative survey of 3092 respondents above the age of 18 in four Nordic capitals: Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo and Stockholm. RESULTS - The results show that in most Nordic capitals more than half of the respondents at some time have known and worried about the drug use of somebody they know personally. Moreover, while the average reported harm was about 2 on a scale from 0 to 10, a significant minority (10%) of those knowing drug users indicated that the harm was above 5. CONCLUSIONS - Many persons have at some time personally known somebody who uses drugs. This causes significant human harm and should be included in the estimate of the social cost of illegal drugs. These results are relevant in the debate on the size of the drug problem as well as for targeting groups that experience the highest costs.

Open access

Jani Selin, Riikka Perälä, Kerstin Stenius, Airi Partanen, Pia Rosenqvist and Hannu Alho