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Actis: Increased drug use can cost Norway billions

The use of drugs currently costs Norway approx. NOK 35 billion a year. If use increases to the average level in Europe, costs will increase by well over NOK 12 billion, concludes an analysis from Oslo Economics (OE), carried out on behalf of Actis. The background is the need to shed light on the economic consequences that the use of illegal drugs has today – for the health service, the police and judicial system, and society as a whole.

In the analysis, four scenarios are studied:
# A reduction in drug use in Norway to the lowest level in the EU.
# An increase to the EU average.
# An increase to the level in the EU countries with the highest drug use.
# An increase to the US average.

The use of illegal drugs in Norway is now slightly above the countries with the lowest drug use in the EU, but below average.

Over several years, drug use in Norway has been low compared to other European countries, but the trend is rising. After almost ten years of stable use of cannabis among Norwegian 15-16-year-olds, the proportion of young people who reported use increased by 2.5 percentage points in 2019 compared with 2007-2015.

In the analysis, OE points to several factors that may contribute to the increased use of drugs in Norway. These seem to be part of an international trend characterized by increased use of drugs, especially cannabis. Drugs have become more available, partly because it is distributed through several channels. In different countries and states, legislation has been changed, so that use, possession and sale are either legalized or no longer punishable.

Overall, this can contribute to changed attitudes and risk perceptions, according to OE. There is little indication of a declining trend either in Norway or internationally. If we do not invest in effective prevention measures, there is a significant risk that the use of drugs in Norway will approach the European average.

The analysis shows that the use of drugs today costs Norway approx. NOK 35 billion a year. According to OE’s calculations, an increase to the EU average could lead to well over NOK 12 billion in increased costs. An increase to US level would increase costs by 142 billion. Had drug use in Norway increased to US level, one in ten kroner in the state budget would have been used for expenses due to drug use.

According to Pernille Huseby, Secretary-General of Actis, the analysis is crystal clear in its findings. By investing in prevention, society will save billions.

“The figures and statistics are not just about economics. The report tells us that increased drug use will lead to more people becoming addicted, and more will experience difficulties mastering everyday life. We believe that more must be done to prevent drug use. It costs enormously to repair the damage with increased use, and not all damage can be repaired,” says Huseby.

Actis will ask for a comprehensive prevention boost in the state budget for 2022, and Huseby believes the report explains why this is now particularly important.

“We see a tendency for increased drug use among Norwegian youth. As the analysis shows, even a moderate increase in the use of drugs can have significant consequences in increased disease burden and greater burden for the individual, for relatives and the health service. The analysis shows us why it is crucial to take drug use seriously. The more people who use drugs, the greater the costs for society. Keeping drug use as low as possible should still be the overriding goal in Norwegian drug policy,” says Huseby.

Source: Actis

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