Alcohol and drug prevention in the Nordic countries

Dear Nordic and Norwegian friends,

It is an honour and a pleasure for me to welcome you all to Oslo and to this important conference on substance use prevention in the Nordic countries.

Alcohol and drug related problems are in many ways universal. These problems are not confined to a few countries, they are found everywhere.  

We are all concerned and preoccupied with what we can do to minimize the risks associated with drug and alcohol use and the harm it causes.

This means that all the Nordic countries share common challenges and concerns. Our countries all search for the best ways to protect our citizens and our societies from harm caused by alcohol and drug use.

This also means that we have a lot to learn from each other. We do not have to devise and develop all interventions and programmes on our own.

The Nordic countries are in many ways like siblings. We all emphasize a strong welfare system – The Nordic Welfare Model – and universal rights.

But we also have different ways to organize our societies. We differ in some political choices, and we differ in some beliefs on the best ways to minimize alcohol and drug related problems.

Despite of these differences, the Nordic Family have a long and fruitful history of collaborating, sharing information, and learning from each other’s experiences and successful interventions. Not least when it comes to alcohol and drug policy. This conference is a perfect example of this. This is also why we initiated this conference as part of Norway’s presidency in the Nordic Council of Ministers this year.

As every minister responsible for public health and well-being, it is of course very important for me to learn more about which policies and interventions that will most likely help us reach our goals.

Substance use impacts our societies through crime, lost work productivity and health problems. We must also not forget the human element, and the suffering that substance use causes.

Investment in prevention is therefore important. It can yield high returns – and improve communities and the lives of the people who live in them. 

How we choose to approach this important issue matters. If we really want to prevent problematic substance use, evidence-based prevention programmes and strategies are the best way to ensure that we get the most out of our allocated resources. We cannot rely on good intentions and personal belief.

In Norway alcohol and drug related issues and society’s response to them is a hotly debated topic.  

The Government are currently working on a whitepaper on a prevention and treatment reform, where ambitious policies and new initiatives will be introduced.

Through the prevention and treatment reform, we aim for better substance use prevention. We want to detect substance use problems early and offer quick and effective help. We are particularly concerned about young people who are at risk of developing problems.

An important part of this reform is to develop and implement a prevention program for children and youth. Our aim is to get municipalities and other relevant actors responsible for prevention to make greater use of evidence-based methods and tools and to stop adopting measures that have no effect.

The conference today is highly relevant, both for our work with domestic policies and for the way it helps to strengthen the Nordic cooperation in this field.

I want to thank all the contributors to this important event. I also want to thank the Nordic council of ministers for their financial support which has made this conference possible.

I wish you all an inspiring and engaging conference.