Sweden has one of the EU's most restrictive drug policies, with zero tolerance for drug use and possession. At the same time, the rate of drug-induced deaths is among the highest in the union, and they are on the rise.
Drug addicts have the right to good health, declares a new UN report, which urges states to embrace harm reduction policies such as offering methadone to heroine users and needle exchange programmes. Only six out of Sweden's 290 municipalities currently offer needle exchange, practised to limit infections such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
“We always look at Sweden as a very advanced country with the most progressive policies, and I was surprised to see that it lags behind a number of other countries in terms of its policies on drugs,” deputy high commissioner for human rights Flavia Pansieri told Swedish broadcaster SVT.
Pansieri suggests Sweden reconsider its zero tolerance policy, as criminalization of possession and use of drugs “has been shown to cause significant obstacles to the right to health,” Pansieri said in a UN press release.
Gothenburg is one municipality that doesn't offer needle exchange.
“Since we don't know how effective these programmes are, we prefer to use that money for something else,” Marina Johansson, municipal commissioner in Gothenburg told the TT newswire.
Gothenburg's stance has been criticized by the Public Health Agency of Sweden: “They are completely rabid down there,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told TT, convinced by the scientific support for needle exchanges.