Historisk arkiv

New Trends in Drug Abuse in Norway

Historisk arkiv

Publisert under: Regjeringen Jagland

Utgiver: Sosial- og helsedepartementet

New Trends in Drug Abuse in Norway

National Report

European Ministerial Conference
15.- 16. May 1997

Norwegian Directorate for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems

1. General situation with the focus on trends/statistics

We have no reliable quantitative data on the extent of the drug use. On the other hand, certain types of data do exist, but these can only give an indication of certain aspects of drug use, and trends in drug use.

1.1 Drug trafficking

The most obvious consequence of world-wide extensive illicit production and drug trafficking is that drugs have become more available in Norway.

Tab. 1 Number of seizures of drugs, opiates, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines, 1986-1996

Number of confiscations






Source: The National Bureau of Crime Investigation

Fig. 1Number of seizures of drugs, opiates, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines 1986-1996

The number of heroin seizures has steadily increased since the second half of the 1980s up to 1994. There was a large increase in the number of seizures in 1995 and 1996.

Tab. 2 Number of seizures of drugs, other drugs, 1989-1996

Ecstasy o.l.






Source: The National Bureau of Crime Investigation

Fig. 2Number of seizures of drugs, other drugs, 1989-1996

Tab. 3 Number of seizures of drugs, in kilogram's, opiates, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines, 1986-1996

Amount confiscated






Source: The National Bureau of Crime Investigation

Tab. 4. Number of seizures of drugs, amount, other drugs, 1989-1996


Measured in:









Ecstasy o.l.Doses11519632596910.98012.852

Source: The National Bureau of Crime Investigation

The number of ecstasy seizures has increased since 1990. In 1994 the police confiscated 969 doses of ecstasy and in 1996 the seizures was increased to 12,852. There where only 9 seizures in 1993 compered to 192 in 1996.

Approximately 30 % of cannabis and amphetamine seizures and approx. 70% of heroin seizures are made in Oslo. The increase in drug seizures is partly the result of new and improved police equipment, competence and more international co-operation, but we also have reason to believe that smuggling of drugs into Norway has increased. Simultaneously different international youth cultural trends are directly or indirectly connected to more liberal attitudes towards drug use, and these trends have influenced on Norwegian youth.

1.2 Drug use patterns

Cannabis is by far the most widely used illegal substance in Norway. Recent increases in use have been reported and the average age among users seems to be increasing. The typical addict combines the use of illicit drugs with alcohol, prescription drugs and, sometimes, with organic solvents. Few drug addicts use only heroin, but commonly consume large amounts of benzodiazepiens, rohypnol and valium. Many addicts predominately use amphetamines, such as either eaten or injected.

At the time being, heroin is available in most places in the country. In Oslo supply is larger than demand. The price of heroin has been low since 1993/94. In spite of lower prices, the police, social workers and research workers share the opinion that the heroin situation in Norway is relatively stable. The average age of known addicts has been steadily rising. Observers interpret this as indicating that the addict population consists of an ageing cohort with few younger recruits. Even so, the situation is serious because of the high rate of drug-related deaths. It seems that lower prices and higher supply makes some heroin addicts use more heroin. New patterns of use such as smoking and sniffing have been registrated.

Use of heroin has traditionally been concentrated to the Oslo-area. However, in the recent years the abuse of heroin has been reported from other major cities as well. Traditionally use of new drugs is first begins in Oslo and then spread to other parts of the country. Ecstasy is an exception to this pattern. After just a few years, ecstasy is available throughout the country.

Abuse of amphetamine has increased, especially among special groups of youth, but also within more established social environments. Few people abuse cocaine in Norway. The cocaine abuse is concentrated to a small and relatively closed environment. Cocaine is furthermore considered as an "upper-class" drug because it is expensive and difficult to obtain.

The extent of drug use varies considerably within the country. The drug problem is greatest in the large coastal towns, and less pronounced in rural areas. Drug use seems to be twice as extensive in Oslo than in Norway as a whole. We have no exact data on the number of drug users. What we do have is an estimate. At present there are approximately 5500-7000 active Intravenous drug abusers in Norway. The main drugs injected are heroin and/or amphetamines. It is estimated that about 30% of injecting drug abusers are female and 70% male.

1.3 Survey of drug and alcohol use among young people in Oslo and Norway

Since 1968 The National Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research has carried out a survey among young people in Oslo - to determine their use of and attitudes towards cannabis and other drugs. Since 1986, data have been collected every other year in the country as a whole.

Data are obtained from questionnaires distributed to a representative sample of young people in aged 15-to-20 years.

Fig 3Percentage of young people in Oslo and Norway who say that they at some time have used different drugs in 1996

Source: The National Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research

The studies have shown that the use of illicit drugs is about twice as common in Oslo as in the country as a whole. Cannabis is the most widely used drug. The numbers show that about 23.7% of young people aged 15-20, in Oslo have tried marihuana and hashish at least once. The number for the same age group in the rest of the country is 12.4% in 1996. According to the surveys, a very small group of young people have ever injected drugs - mostly heroin, but also amphetamines.

Attitudes towards drug use are generally negative. Only 9% of 15 - 20 year olds in 1996 believed that marihuana and hashish should be sold freely in Norway. The percentage of young people who believe that cannabis should be sold freely has increased steadily from 2.1% in 1986 to 11.4% in 1996. At the same time the numbers show that more young people would try cannabis if there were no risk of being arrested( 5.0% in 1986 and 16.6% in 1996).

1.4 Drugrelated deaths

The number of drug-related deaths increased steadily during the 1980s, and rose more sharply in the 1990s. 185 deaths from overdoses were registered in 1996, 159 men and 26 women. The average age at death was 34.9 years for men and 33.2 for women.

Fig. 4 Deaths caused by use of drugs, 1982-1996

Source: The National Bureau of Crime Investigation


By the end of 1996, a total of 406 injecting drug addicts where registered as being HIV antibody positive. The spread of HIV infection among injecting drug addicts has gone down markedly since 1986. By the end of 1996, 7 injecting drug users had been given the diagnosis of AIDS.

Tab. 5 HIV infection, number of cases diagnosed, by risk factor and year of diagnosis

Homosexual/ bisexual

Intravenous drug use

Combination of A+B

Other risk factors
























Source: National Institute of Public Health

Tab. 6 AIDS, new diagnosed cases, by risk factor and year of notification, and number deaths from AIDS

Homosexual/ bisexual

Intravenous drug use

Other risk factors


Source: National Institute of Public Health

2. Governmental structures responsible for drugs

The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is the responsible ministry for alcohol- and drug policy and the overall co-ordination of illicit drug abuse.

Norwegian Directorate for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems shall, after special instruction from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs "give its full attention to all social conditions that are related to trends in consumption of legal and illicit drugs and the consequences of their use, and develop and implement measures that prevent these problems."

The National Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIFA) is an independent institute whose aim is to carry out scientific research on alcohol and drug issues with special attention to social science research.

A permanent co-ordinating body for law enforcement activities has been formed, comprising a representative for the Ministry of Justice and Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Chief of the National Bureau of Crime Investigation and the Head of the Drug Section, Oslo Police force. This committee keeps abreast of the development in drug use, continuously evaluates law enforcement efforts, ensures that resources are available and from an assessment of priorities, select specific issues to concentrate on.

In order to co-ordinate the drug law enforcement of the police and the custom service, a body comprising representatives from both agencies has been formed. This body deals with questions of overall policy as well as practical measures involving the two agencies. A custom task force with liaison to the police has been established at the international airport in Oslo, equipped with advanced technology and a computerised information system.

3. National legislation

3.1 Basic approach of legal policy

All illicit dealings with drugs are covered by the Norwegian Penal Code. Confiscation of proceeds, telephone tapping, control of mail under certain other investigation procedures are allowed under certain conditions by Norwegian law and regulations.

Two government-appointed committees have recently presented their recommendations to the Ministry of Justice on respectively improving the legislation on the confiscation of the proceeds of crime and the improvement of investigation procedures in order to combat crime.

3.2 and 3.3 Legislation/penalties concerning production, consumption, possession and trafficking of drugs

All unlawful dealing with drugs are covered by § 162 of Penal Code, with the exception of the use and possession of minor quantities of drugs which is penalised through the Medicines act. There has been no significant changes in our drug legislation since our last report.

3.4 Legislation/penalties concerning the unlawful trafficking in precursors and essential chemicals

No major steps have been taken since our last report.

3.5 Legislation/penalties concerning the seizures of the financial proceeds from drug offences, money laundering etc.

As mention above a government appointed committee has recently delivered its report on this issue, and the proposals will be carefully considered on order to find means to make the work in this field more effective.

3.6 Assessment of current legislative situation possible proposals for reform under discussion

Norwegian penalties for narcotic crimes are among the strictest in Europe and the investigation and prosecution of narcotic crimes are given high priority by the police and prosecution services.

4. Practical law enforcement

4.1 Organisation of police services

The local police districts are co-operating closely with central units. The National Bureau of Crime Investigation (NBCI) has a central function when it comes to the exchange of information as well as analyses of narcotic substances. Intelligence, tactical analyses, strategy plans, preparation of statistical material as well as professional assistance are the most important support functions. National database and communication with other countries are arranged via the NBCI. Communication with the 28 Nordic liaison officers posted in strategically important countries for Norway is also channelled via the NBCI. The police and Customs Co-ordinating Office, manned with personnel form both services, is an important resource.

The National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime in Norway (ØKOKRIM) is a national, central unit concentrating its activities on economic investigation. It is a resource for the police districts in terms of economic investigations. The unit has a separate group specialised in detecting money laundering. The group has proved its raison d'être on several occasions. Among other things, it has been used in cases with international ramifications.

Oslo Police Headquarters has the responsibility for operational assistance for all of Norway. The Drug section, with its personnel and material resources, assists the police districts as needed in the fight against drug crimes. The Drug Section co-operates with the police districts in towns and densely populated areas which have serious drug problems. This is done in connection with drug actions planned in advance.

The Ministry of Justis has initiated various regional projects in areas in Norway where the need has been visualised. If co-operating, closely in order to solve persistent drug problems comes naturally to several police district, centrally initiated projects are implemented in which a joint undercover group is included. Projects of this type have proved to be efficient. Resource exploitation improves and the detection rate for drug crimes increases. Projects which receive central working capital, are evaluated on a annual basis. Changes in the need for such projects are considered, and on that basis changes in composition as well as the number of projects are implemented.

The Mobile Police is a resource which covers the entire nation through daily patrols. The officers in the Mobile Police obtain a theoretical background on drug issues as a part of their basic training. Liaisons are appointed in the various police districts, and they provide the officers of the Mobile Police with information. The liaisons are also used in connection with major drug actions. Traffic controls with a view to detecting car drivers influenced by any type of intoxication are also arranged. Controls of this type are held over an extended period of time with resources from the Mobile Police and local police districts.

4.2 Organisation of customs service

The Customs shall still give priority to detecting and preventing the importation and exportation of narcotic substances, profit obtained from drug crimes, doping preparations and chemicals used in connection with the illegal production of narcotic substances. The plan focuses on the following strategies: reorganisation, target action, co-operation, increasing competence, and technical aids.

The reorganisation of check activities has come far in areas where mobile units giving priority to drug checks have been used. These units can also be used for other checks. Up to year 2000, a reinforced information service will be built up.

The total use of resources in 1996 was increased with 57 man-labour years to 1700 man-labour years. As essential part of the new man-labour years has been used within the area of drug check reinforcement.

The tip telephone established in 1990 has proved to be a measure which yields valuable intelligence.

The Customs has entered into bilateral collaboration agreements with a number of countries. Their participation in projects under the direction of the World Customs Organisation and co-operation with foreign customs authorities work satisfactorily.

4.3 Co-operation between customs and police services

In 1996, co-operation between police and customs authorities was characterised by the at times significant seizures made in connection with customs checks. The seizures where among other things made as a result of the close co-operation between customs and police services.

In 1994, the established collaboration unit for police and customs services was expanded to cover all cases of illegal importation, exportation and transit.

Based on experience gained from this co-operation, a working group was established which is to review the similar working areas of the two services, as well as the conditions of co-operation which are practised between the two services.

Under the direction of the PTN, Police and Customs Co-operation in the Nordic Countries, the two services collaborate in connection with different projects on a Nordic scale in order to reveal the flow of narcotic drugs across national borders, new tendencies and trafficking methods. Current problems are discussed in connection with the regular PTN meetings, and new resolutions are made.

4.4 Assessment of current effectiveness of law, enforcement services/problems areas/possible proposals for new policies under discussion

The Norwegian Police Academy offers three years of basic education and training, with a combination of theory and practice of which the topic of intoxication is an important part.

In 1996, a task group for narcotic drugs was established, with members from the central police institutions, police district and the Ministry of Justice. The task group is to make proposals for new measures which can be initiated in order to increase the efficiency of the fight against narcotic drugs.

In 1997, liaisons from the main police headquarters in the different parts of Norway will be seconded to the National Bureau of Crime Investigation and act as connecting links. This arrangement will strengthen the exchange of information.

The Nordic meeting for national chiefs of police/deputy chiefs of police consider cases relating to Nordic police co-operation. The national deputy chiefs of police, who meet on a regular basis, develop and reinforce Nordic police co-operation.

5. Information/Education/ Prevention

5.1 Organisation and policy of services responsible for information on drug misuse

The official aim is to ensure that the public shall have access to information, access to the results of research and understanding of political measures to control the abuse of drugs. Norway has chosen a combined approach to alcohol and drugs. In the field of demand reduction this is appropriate, though it is necessary to stress differences in legality/illegality.

Drug research is carried out in several research institutions: The National Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIFA),The National Institute for Forensic Toxicology (SRI) and The Norwegian Social Research Centre - NOVA

5.2 Organisation and policy of services responsible for education in schools

Primary and secondary schools play an important role in preventing drug use. Schools have responsibility for drug education, and they often co-operate with voluntary organisations, treatment centres, former drug addicts and the police. Furthermore they are assisted by the Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs and the Norwegian Directorate for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems.

There are several different national programmes on prevention of alcohol and drug problems for use in educational institutions at several levels. The programmes include education for teachers, so that they can, to a greater degree, and more systematically, contribute to preventive drug education among children and adolescents.

5.3 Organisation and policy of services responsible for other prevention activities

The need for creating positive alternatives to drug use are strongly emphasised. Special state grants and loans are available for this purpose. These activities are mostly organised by the municipalities and voluntary organisations.

In Norway there is a national programme to prevent the abuse of alcohol and drugs at the work place, AKAN (The Tripartite Committee for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems at the Workplace).

AKAN was founded in 1963 by representatives of the Norwegian Trade Union Confederation (LO) and the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO).

The programme has a tripartite funding, and works through the co-operation of LO, NHO and national authorities. AKAN committees and programmes have been set up in numerous public and private workplaces.

5.4 Prevention of HIV infection among drug addicts

Efforts to combat the AIDS epidemic are based on inter/cross-sectional efforts, where the health sector works in close contact with all implicated actors. The Directorate of Health is the professional co-ordinating body at the central level.

Oslo has a needle exchange service, which is called " The AIDS information bus". From the bus addicts can get free needles, condoms and if they wish take an HIV-test. In 1996 the needle exchange service gave out 1,145, 120 needles and it had approximately 230 visitors every night.

6. Treatment and Rehabilitation

6.1 General principles of treatment and rehabilitation policy

The main principle in Norway is that treatment should be voluntary and drug free. Nevertheless, it is now accepted that people may benefit from compulsory treatment. The Child Welfare Act of 1992 covers compulsory placement of young people under the age of 18. The Act on Social Services provides the legal framework for compulsory treatment for adults (for up to 3 months) and pregnant drug users until the child is born. Adults can be transferred from prison to a treatment centre as part of their sentence. Supervision orders (probation) can also be made for convicted drug addicts.

6.2 General organisation of services

Drug addicts have the same entitlement to public health-and social welfare services as other citizens. Such services are established in all areas of Norway. An important aspect of the treatment and rehabilitation policy in Norway is to bring responsibility back to local communities. In the Parliamentary White Paper number 69 (1991-92); "The delivery of services for substance abuse" early intervention, welfare and health care, and community based approaches are emphasised as being the most important areas to concentrate on the years ahead. This means that responsibility for the economy, planning and operation lies with the municipalities and the counties.

6.3 Types of treatment offered

A variety of treatment and rehabilitation approaches are offered, including private institutions. In general, non-governmental organisations play an important role in the efforts to reintegrate drug addicts into society.

Originally there was a clear distinction between residential institutions for people with alcohol-and drug problems. This distinction still exists, but as mentioned above there is an increasing group of addicts who use a "mixture" of alcohol, legal drugs and illegal drugs.

The largest and oldest institution for care of people with drug problems is the State Clinic for Drug Addicts, which comes under the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. In addition, there is a range of institutions which comes under the health and social services run by the county councils, or else which are owned by organisations which are funded by the public sector. Some of the institutions are run by religious or humanitarian organisations, and each patient is paid for from public funds.

6.4 Assessment of current programmes and possible proposals for change

The Norwegian network and centres of competence

In 1996 the Parliament agreed to establish seven regional centres of competence. The centres are clinically based with connections to universities and research institutes.

Within their region, the competence centres shall contribute to raising the general level of competence and distribution of competence within both primary and secondary treatment services for alcohol and drug abusers. The competence centres shall develop and carry out further education programmes for personnel within primary health and social services for alcohol and drug addicts. The centres have national responsibility for the development of special competence within special fields, and co-operate with the other centres in a Norwegian network.

Areas of special competence:

Abuse of alcohol and drugs within the Sami (aborigine) population.Young alcohol and drug abusers, treatment, early intervention and prevention.Women's use and abuse of alcohol and drugs.Alcohol and drug abuse in the work place.Alcohol and drug abusers who are parents with children of school age, and associated work with families.Alcohol an drug abusers who are pregnant or have children under school age.Drug abusers with HIV/AIDS.Drug abusers on methadone programmes.Alcohol and drug abuse amongst immigrants and refugees.Alcohol and drug abusers who are deaf.Clients in the grey area between mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse (dual diagnosis).The National documentation System

The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs have given the Norwegian Directorate for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems mandate to develop a National Documentation System. The documentation system is divided into three parts;

  1. The national database was established in 1995. This is a national database with information about administrative, economic, treatment and development activities in the units.
  2. The national client stream register was established in May 1996. All clients are registered when they are undergoing treatment. This information is centralised and crypted once a year.
  3. National client statistics. These are statistics based on standardised forms used by the therapists in direct contact with the clients. The form includes questions about family relations, education, physical and psychiatric condition, and behaviour related to the clients use of drugs, alcohol and medication.

7. The role of voluntary organisations

Norway has a well-developed network of voluntary organisations involved in drug problems. Thousands of people make an important contribution , by working voluntarily and giving economic support. However, this level of activity would never have been possible without public support. In Norway, there is a high level of co-operation between the private and the public sectors.

8. International co-operation

8.1 Co-operation within the United Nation system

Norway has ratified the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and the UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

Norway is one of the major contributors to the United Nations International Drug Control Programme - UNDCP. The Norwegian contribution has primarily gone to projects for crop substitution and rural development in producer areas, but in recent years also to demand reduction projects. Norway has also for several years supported aid work to voluntary organisations. Norway was a member of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drug during 1992-95 and is presently attending the session of the CND as an observer.

8.2 Regional co-operation and 8.3 Bilateral co-operation

Norway has ratified all the relevant European conventions including the 1990 convention on laundering, tracing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime. Norway is presently preparing the ratification of the 1995 Council of Europe Agreement on Interdiction at Sea.

Norway is a member of the ICPO-INTERPOL, the Customs Co-operation Council and the Dublin group, and is presently holding the chairmanship of the Pompidou Group.

Norway is also taking part in the Financial Action Task-Force and in the increased co-operation between the Baltic Sea Countries through the Baltic Sea Task Force on Combating International crime.

Norway is presently taking steps toward joining the Schengen co-operation and has in this respect signed a co-operation agreement with the Schengen countries on the 19. December 1996.

In 1995 Norway started proceedings for a membership at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Norway is also a member of the Nordic Council for Alcohol and Drug Research (NAD).

8.4 Liaison officers

As mention in previous reports Norway is taking part in the PNT liaison officer co-operation. Since our last report Norway has stationed an officer in Moscow, established an ambulating liaison officer in Murmansk, Russia.

This page was last updated May 12 1997 by the editors