The use of drugs is increasing in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and in its vicinity and cocaine is used more than amphetamine, according to a recent wastewater study commissioned by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).
In other parts of Finland, the use levels have remained more even and amphetamine is used more than cocaine, said THL in a press release on Tuesday referring to the study.
The samples for the now published results of national monitoring of wastewater for drugs were taken from 27 cities and adjoining areas in November-December of last year and samples were also taken from the largest cities (Helsinki, Turku, Tampere) in March of this year.
The samples for continuous wastewater research are collected from Helsinki, Tampere and Turku between Sunday and Monday morning, so the results shed light in particular on drug use during weekends. The results of the national sampling reflect the average use calculated for all days of the week.
The extensive study covers about 60 per cent of the Finnish population.
Amphetamine is still used in significant quantities throughout Finland. Its use has remained well below its peak in 2020, although its use has increased again in some large cities in early 2023 compared to 2022. Cocaine, on the other hand, is used increasingly, especially in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
"In spring 2021, extensive drug seizures and apprehensions by law enforcement authorities had a clear impact on the drug situation. The change has been reflected predominantly in the use of amphetamine, while the impacts on the use of cocaine were only temporary," said Teemu Gunnar, Head of Unit of THL.
"The decrease in amphetamine use is also reflected in harmful social phenomena, such as the decrease in the number of drug-impaired driving incidents during the past two years. The strong increase in cocaine use has not yet been reflected in other statistics. This suggests that these drugs are at least partly used by different groups. The use of cocaine is most common during weekends," Gunnar added.
While cocaine use is most common in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, amphetamine is by far the most popular stimulant drug in the majority of Finland.
Major regional differences have been visible not only in the substances used, but also in the development of use volumes: the long-term increase in total use volumes has been strong in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area since wastewater research began in Finland in 2012. On the other hand, use has remained at the same level in many small localities.
“In terms of stimulants use, there is a clear divide between different regions of Finland. Especially in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, the use of stimulants is abundant and climbing again, but the situation has been fairly steady in many cities. Very little or no cocaine has typically been used in these cities,' said THL Development Manager Aino Kankaanpää.
On average, the use of MDMA or ecstasy was observed less in 2022 than in 2014–2020.
However, in March this year, the use of ecstasy had increased in all research cities in comparison to 2022. Based on wastewater studies, ecstasy is typically used more in large cities than in small ones.
Methamphetamine use is currently relatively low in Finland. The use of methamphetamine is now considerably lower than in 2016 and 2017, when it temporarily exceeded amphetamine use levels in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
The most common designer drugs associated with problem use in Finland, in particular alpha-PVP, which is a synthetic cathinone are regularly detected in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and its vicinity at the Nummela treatment plant in Vihti.
Observations have been made in the continuous monitoring of Helsinki and neighbouring areas that the use of alpha-PVP has increased significantly since the beginning of 2022 and was at a record level in spring 2023. Synthetic cathinones are typically injected and are used as part of problematic substance abuse.
In addition to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and its neighbouring areas, synthetic cathinones were found in Turku, Tampere, Hämeenlinna, Mikkeli and Savonlinna. Based on wastewater monitoring, temporal and regional variations in the use of designer drugs are typically more common than for more conventional drugs.
- Drug use