Services for Substance Abusers

Finland Table of Contents

The Welfare for Intoxicant Abusers Act of 1985 dealt mainly with alcoholism, as it was the only serious problem of substance abuse in Finland in the late 1980s. Finnish society had traditionally not seen alcohol as a part of daily life, but rather as something consumed on special occasions and then to the point of intoxication. Medical evidence of this harmful habit was that the Finnish incidence of death by acute alcohol poisoning was seven times that of Sweden and twenty times that of Denmark. Because of its troubled relationship with alcohol, the country enforced prohibition from 1919 to 1931. A later measure against alcohol consumption was a 1976 law that banned liquor advertisements in most publications. Another measure increased the cost of alcohol by taxing it heavily, so much so that by the mid-1980s liquor taxes were an important out source of state revenues.

In the 1980s, there were still many abstainers in Finland who had moral objections to alcohol use, in contrast to the small minority of drinkers who accounted for more than half of total national consumption. In the late 1960s, a relaxation of the rules for the purchase of alcohol had as its goal a lessening of drink's glamorous appeal because it was, in a sense, forbidden. This policy may have backfired when sales of beer in grocery stores and the availability of hard liquor at more restaurants caused alcohol consumption to more than double within a decade. Since the mid-1970s, however, analysts of Finnish alcohol use have seen consumption rates level off and drinking habits become more moderate. Although the number of abstainers had dropped sharply in the postwar period, causing some sociologists to refer to Finns who became adults in the 1950s and the 1960s as "the wet generation," alcohol was gradually coming to take a more ordinary place in everyday life.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health had a special department concerned with substance abuse, the Department of Temperance and Alcohol Policy, that formulated welfare plans and directed the State Alcohol Monopoly responsible for the manufacture, importation, and sale of alcohol. Local authorities provided a variety of facilities for alcoholics--including clinics, half-way houses, and emergency housing open twenty-four hours a day that offered withdrawal treatments. When necessary, alcoholics could be confined against their will, but this practice was less common in the late 1980s than it had been previously. State welfare was supplemented by private and voluntary associations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress