Drug Abuse in the Global Village



                        Extent of Drug Abuse

Cannabis is the most prevalent illicit drug abused in Norway. Survey results indicate that 8.2 per cent of those aged 15 to 22 years abused cannabis at least once in their "lifetime" and 2.5 per cent (80,000 to 90,000) at least once in the year preceding the survey (or "annually"). Annual abuse of amphetamines (9,000-12,000 abusers), cocaine (2,500) and heroin (6,000-8,000) is considered limited. There are 3,000 annual abusers of hallucinogens and 20,000 to 25,000 volatile solvents annual abusers (U.N. 1991).

            Heroin is the preferred drug among injecting abusers (U.N. 1991).

                       Abuser Characteristics

Generally, drug abusers tend to be males but for sedatives and opiates, prevalence of lifetime abuse is higher among females (see table 1). Drug abuse is more common in the age range 20 to 35 years old for heroin, cocaine and amphetamines and between 17 and 30 years old for cannabis (see table 1 for more details) (U.N. 1991).

Table 1. Ever use of drugs by type, age and gender in percentages.
Opiates            Cocaine            Cannabis          Amphetamine   Sedative           Solvents           Other
15-19   0.9                   0.3                   7.6                   0.9                   3.0                   6.8                   2.1
20-22   0.5                   0.4                   14.1                 1.2                   4.0                   7.4                   1.1
25-34   -                       -                       15.2                 -                       -                       -                       -
35+      -                       -                       3.8                   -                       -                       -                       -
15-22   0.6               0.3                       11.1                 1.2                   3.0                   7.7                   3.5
15-22   0.8               0.3                       8.6                   0.9                   3.6                   6.3                   1.8
Source: Irgens-Jensen O. 1991 Changes in the Use of Drugs among Norwegian Youth year by year from 1968 to 1989. 
British Journal of Addiction (1991) 86, 1449-1458.

                         Regional  Variations

The extent of drug abuse varies considerably within the country. Drug abuse is highest in large coastal towns and less pronounced in rural areas. The extent of drug abuse seems to be twice as large in Oslo than in the rest of the country (see table 2 for more details) (U.N. 1991).

            Regional variation with respect to attitudes towards drug abuse has also been noted. Only 2 per cent of young people in Norway as a whole and 4 per cent in Oslo said in 1990 that they were in favour of legalizing drugs (U.N. 1991).

Table 2. Lifetime prevalence of licit and illicit drug use of youth (15 to 22 years old) of Oslo and in Norway  (in Percentages)
                        Oslo (1989)     Norway (1990)
Alcohol            89                    85
Tobacco           56                    50
Cannabis          19                   8
Glue and          8                     8
 other solvents
Amphetamine   2.5                   1.2
Cocaine or
 crack               1.5                  0.6
Opiates            1.5                   0.6
LSD                 0.4                  -
Injected drugs   0.5                   0.3
Total number
 respondents 1,302              2,911
Source: Irgens-Jensen O. 1991 Changes in the Use of Drugs among Norwegian Youth year by year from 1968 to 1989. 
British Journal of Addiction (1991) 86, 1449-1458.

            Studies indicate that 50 per cent of the injecting drug abusers reside in Oslo (U.N. 1991).



Survey results suggest there has been no increase in the abuse of drugs among young people in Norway since the beginning of the 1980s. Use of amphetamines, heroin, morphine and LSD among young people has remained stable since the early 1980s. Cannabis use appears to have decreased in recent years. Glue and other solvent abuse has remained stable in the last ten years. Alcohol and tobacco consumption have declined somewhat among young people toward the end of the 1980s (Norway 1991). Surveys carried out on 15 to 22 year olds between 1986 and 1992 show lifetime prevalence of abuse of amphetamines and heroin as stable, that of cocaine decreasing and that of cannabis and volatile solvents increasing (see table 3 for more details) (U.N. 1991).

            The prevalence of cannabis abuse has not changed in recent years, but the average age of abusers has increased. According to police information, the prevalence of cannabis abuse by females is increasing (U.N. 1991).

            Surveys undertaken by the National Institute for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (SIFA) indicate that the first time drug injection decreased and that the age addicts who still inject is increasing. An increasing number of addicts have been abusers for a long time (U.N. 1991).

Table 3. Lifetime Abuse of illicit drugs among 15 to 22 year olds, 1986 to 1992.
Year    Cannabis         Solvents    Amphetamines     Cocaine           Heroin             Heroin injection         

1986    7.8                   10.0                 1.0                   -                       0.5                   0.4
1990    8.0                  8.3                   1.2                   0.5                   0.5                   0.3
1991    8.3                  7.6                   0.9                   0.3                   0.5                   0.2
1992    9.0                  6.3                   1.0                   0.3                   0.5                   0.4
Source: Reply to Annual Reports Questionnaire for the year 1991.

                             Mode of intake

Approximately 30 per cent of drug addicts are intravenous drug abusers (CMO 1991). Drugs injected are heroin, morphine, cocaine, amphetamines and sedative type drugs, all of which are also ingested except for cocaine which is also smoked and sniffed. Cannabis is reported both smoked and ingested (U.N. 1991).

            The typical Norwegian addict combines abuse of illicit drugs with alcohol and prescribed drugs (U.N. 1991).


Among the consequences attributed to drug and alcohol abuse are increased rates of car accidents, crime violence and family problems. The cost of treatment of people with alcohol and drug problems is estimated to be one billion Norwegian Kroners (CMO 1991).

            AIDS/HIV seroprevalence. HIV Seroprevalence among drug abusers in the most visited test centre in Oslo and other agencies is between 5 and 8 per cent. Approximately 4 per cent of all AIDS cases in Norway in 1989 are drug abusers (WHO 1991).

            Drug related deaths. A total of 96 drug related deaths were reported in 1991 (U.N. 1991). Drug related deaths increased from 25 in 1982 to 75 in 1990. The increase is limited to those over 25 years of age. In a sample of 76 deaths reported at the regional level in 1991, 68 were due to heroin and morphine while thwe rest were due to other opiates, barbiturates, benzodiazepines combined with ethanol at high concentrations and other sedatives. Most of the deaths were of males (75 per cent) (CMO 1991).


                           National Strategy

A five year National Plan of Action was launched in 1988 with the objective to suppress the supply and demand of drugs through a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach. The National Narcotic Advisory Board, an interministerial, coordinating and advisory body, oversees the development of policy relating to the reduction of supply and demand for illicit drugs (Norway 1991).



                           Treaty adherence

Norway is Party to the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic  Substances and to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol.



                          Primary Prevention

Prevention efforts aim to increase awareness relating to consequences of drug abuse through education and information and by providing drug free leisure activities (CMO 1991)

            The Directorate for the Prevention od Alcohol and Drug Problems is responsible for the dissemination of preventive messages to the public in general. Media campaigns targetted, in addition to the general population, specific groups such as youth, parents, and professionals in 1992 (CMO 1991)

            Schools bear the responsibility for drug education and often cooperate with voluntary organizations, treatment centres, former drug addicts and the police. A special advisor for primary and secondary schools is available in each county. In 1989, a new national programme on the prevention of alcohol and drug problems was developed for primary schools (CMO 1991).

            The national Committee for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug abuse in the workplace (AKAN), aims at preventing and treating drug and alcohol in the work place (CMO 1991)

            Prevention of HIV infection among drug abusers Needles are freely sold in pharmacies and there are needles vending machines in 10 towns. In Oslo, a bus provides free needles, among other drug related health services. Needles and syringes are also provided free of charge by treatment centres, outreach agencies and HIV clinics. Needle exchange programmes operate in some towns (WHO 1991).

            Voluntary organizations play an important role in prevention of drug abuse. Among these are the National Association Against Drug Abuse (LMS) targeting parents and young drug addicts, and the Young people against drugs (FMH) organized for under 20 year olds.

                 Treatment and Rehabilitation

Treatment of drug abuse is voluntary, in general. The child welfare law, however, allows compulsory treatment of young people under the age of 18. As of 1993, compulsory treatment for abusers over the age of 18 is permitted for a limited period of three months (Norway 1991).

            The National Plan of Action launched in 1988 increased  considerably the number of residential institutions for treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts and has resulted in the creation of around 350 new beds in acute aid units and therapeutic communities. In 1990 a total of 2,022 patients were in treatment and rehabilitation (CMO 1991).

            At the local level, counselling and other support services are provided by social welfare offices, social workers, youth workers, and volunteer workers in street or community based teams. In larger municipalities, outreach programmes are based on "street corner" social work. Within psychiatric hospitals, interdisciplinary teams work mainly on an out-patient basis with drug abusers in need of psychiatric treatment. Specialized residential care units are established in psychiatric hospitals (5 nation wide) (CMO 1991).

            Treatment and rehabilitation places are available in acute aid clinics, therapeutic communities (500 in 1991). Private institutions many religious are also available (300 places in 1991) (Norway 1991).

            Detoxification programmes There are three detoxification institutions for drug abusers providing approximately 40 place in total (CMO 1991).

            Methadone substitution programmes. Methadone is offered as part of the medical treatment to HIV infected injecting drug abusers, but there is no formal methadone substitution programmes (AIDS among Drug abusers in Europe 1991). A strictly controlled pilot project on methadone maintenance, comprising of 50 hard core opiate dependent abusers (30 years old and older) began in Oslo in 1993 (CMO 1991).

            Approximately 40 per cent of the prison population are drug abusers (90 per cent of which are males). All prisons provide detoxification, drug counselling, counselling on drug related diseases, social reintegration and aftercare services (CMO 1991).


      Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

A total of 1,889 persons were convicted for drug related offenses in 1991 (1,728 in 1990, 2,025 in 1989). Of these 1,651 were convicted for trafficking in drugs (mainly cannabis, heroin , amphetamines and cocaine). About 87 per cent of those arrested and convicted were male, 60 per cent between 25 and 29 years of age (U.N. 1991).


The more significant quantities of drugs seized are for cannabis (387 kg in 1991), heroin (10 kg), stimulants (19 kg), hallucinogens (140 kg), cocaine (4 kg) and LSD (194 grams). Heroin is the most frequently seized drug in 1991 (979), followed by stimulants (621) and cannabis resin (484) (U.N. 1991).

                      Supply Source of Drugs

Seized heroin originates from South East and South West Asia mainly (65-75 per cent). It is transported through the Balkan route or directly by air (10-20 per cent). it is also trafficked via West Africa. Cocaine seized originates from Colombia and Bolivia by air. Cannabis originates from Spain and Morocco. Eighty per cent of the seized amphetamine originated from the Netherlands, 10-15 per cent from Poland (U.N. 1991).


                       References and Notes

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years .... (not available by January 15th 1994).

U.N. 1991. Reply to the Annual Report Questionnaire, 1991.

CMO 1991. Response to the Questionnaire on the first even targets of the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug abuse Control (CMO) 1991.

Norway 1991. National Report of Norway to the first Pan-European Ministerial Conference on co-operation on illicit drug abuse problems, Oslo, 9-10 May 1991.

WHO 1991. AIDS among Drug abusers in Europe, prepared by H. Brenner, et al.

Changes in the use of drugs among Norwegian youth year by year from 1968 to 1989. O. Irgens-Jensen. British Journal of Addiction (1991) 86, 1449-1458.