Norway tops in narcotics seizures

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No other country in Europe has seized more quantities of methamphetamines than Norway, according to a new study. Drugs of all kinds continue to flow into the country, but seizures indicate that Norway has emerged as one of the largest markets for methamphetamines in the region, and the number of people trying to get off the drug has doubled.

“More drug users in Norway are moving over from amphetamines to methamphetamines, and it’s worrisome,” researcher Jørgen Bramness told newspaper Aftenposten . The two drugs are similar, but methamphetamines are known for having a stronger effect and lasting longer.

From 2000 until 2008, the amount of people seeking help to wean themselves from stimulants including amphetamines, methamphetamines and cocaine has doubled. Methamphetamine abuse “makes up a growing portion of the drug abuse among those coming in for treatment, Arvid Skutle of a drug treatment center in Bergen told Aftenposten . At the same time, there’s been a reduction in the use of heroin.

Most of Skutle’s patients are long-term drug addicts, he said, “but when we scratch the surface, we see a more diverse group of abusers.”

Methamphetamines are normally sold in powder form in Norway and a study by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction shows that it’s increasingly available in both Norway and the Nordic countries.

The quantities seized in Norway, however, topped those in Sweden, Lithuania and Finland, the top four countries measured in terms of methamphetamines seizures in Europe. Narcotics in general continue to make major inroads in the Norwegian market, with cocaine usage also believed to have been rising not least in affluent sectors of the population.

New figures from the state health institute (Folkehelseinstituttet) show that fully one in five motorists suspected of driving under the influence were found to have methamphetamines in their system, according to their blood tests.

Increasing numbers of Norwegians committed to psychiatric hospitals also are testing positive for methamphetamines: 41 out of 300 patients in 2006, up sharply from 2003. The latest test results weren’t available yet.

Drug use has also been found to be widespread in Norwegian prisons and Bramness said he thinks it’s found “in very many sectors of the population.”

European police agency Europol reports that most of the methamphetamines entering Norway are produced in Lithuania, with most of the smuggling originating in the Baltic countries. Sellers congregated outside Oslo’s central train station told Aftenposten the current price is around NOK 350-400 (USD 62-71) per gram.

More than 550 kilos were seized in Norway in 2007, with couriers generally smuggling in less than 10 kilos at a time.