Amphetamine Use Soars in Locked Down Finland: Study

Finland supporters applaud their team after the Euro 2020 group J qualifying soccer match between Greece and Finland at Olympic stadium in Athens on Nov. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

HELSINKI (AFP) — Finns may be known for their love of vodka and beer, but growing numbers in the Nordic nation appear to have turned to amphetamines to cope with the coronavirus lockdown, health officials said on Thursday.

Regular analysis of wastewater in the capital, Helsinki, showed a 15% rise in use of such stimulants since the government told people to stay at home in mid-March.  

Although researchers could not directly link the spike in drug use to the lockdown, “the fact remains that amphetamine use has been higher than ever before, at least in the Helsinki metropolitan area,” said Teemu Gunnar, head of forensic toxicology at the National Institute for Health and Welfare. 

Amphetamines can be used to treat medical conditions such as ADHD, but is also taken recreationally, sometimes under the name “speed.”

Use of amphetamines in the country of 5.5 million people has tripled since 2013 according to wastewater studies, Gunnar said.  

However, Finns have not turned to other drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy or methamphetamines during the lockdown, the institute’s analysis showed.

He revealed the findings in a joint statement with the police, who said the analysis suggested amphetamine use in Helsinki had reached “record levels.”

Health officials have also begun analyzing wastewater for traces of the coronavirus since the crisis began, as international studies suggest it can give a fuller picture of how much the disease is circulating among the population.  

The most recent results from the end of May suggest that, while the virus is still present in the major towns of Helsinki and Turku, coronavirus levels have dropped considerably in other parts of the country.

On Thursday, Finland’s health officials announced no new coronavirus infections for the first time in more than three months. 

“This is the first ‘zero day’ since February 26,” a spokesperson for the Institute for Health and Welfare told AFP.

One person did die from the virus on Thursday, however, bringing the death toll to 322 in the Nordic nation of 5.5 million people, the institute said.

While the country has 50 people still in hospital, seven in intensive care, an estimated 5,800 of Finland’s 7,000 recorded Covid-19 cases have now recovered. More than a third of hospital districts did not register a single case during the final week of May. 

On Thursday, Finnish health authorities said the estimated basic reproduction number is now between 0.75 and 0.80, marking a clear decrease over the past two weeks.  

Since mid-May Finland’s government has begun lifting emergency restrictions that were imposed on March 18. 

Schools were reopened for two weeks before the summer holidays began at the start of June, and earlier this week bars, restaurants, sports facilities and cultural institutions were allowed to reopen under social distancing regulations. 

Officials and the government have said, however, they are braced for a second wave of infections later in the year, and have warned the public to continue following distancing advice and to self-isolate and seek testing if they experience any symptoms.

© Agence France-Presse

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