(last update 1995)
0. Data Base: Pluss, Oslo.
The estimated number of drug users in Norway varies between 25,000, of which 5,000 are intravenous drug users (police) and 4,000, of which 1,700 are intravenous drug users (Health and Welfare Sector). The number of deaths related to drugs totals 75-100 a year. Up to December 1991, 1,090 persons with HIV and 238 AIDS cases had been registered. 319 of the 1,090 seropositives (33.7%) were recognized as drug users. 162 people had already died of the infection, 27 of these cases (11 %) were drug consumers.3
Norway operates one of the highest levels of legal punishment for drug offences in Scandinavia. All crimes against the Drugs Act are liable to heavy fines or imprisonment. The maximum length of confinement is 21 years, the same as for homicide. Drug law enforcement measures have been given high
priority in recent years. In March 1990, a tip-off telephone was introduced, so the public can inform customs authorities if they suspect the smuggling of drugs. The Child Welfare Law orders the compulsory placement of young people under the age of 18 involved in drugs. The Mental Health Law provides the possibility of compulsory treatment for drug users with an assumed psychiatric disorder.'
About 43% of the inmates of the Oslo Community Prison are active drug users. The possibility of obtaining sterile syringes is virtually non-existent. The Prison Law does, however, provide for the transfer of drug consumers to treatment institutions.
The provision of sterile syringes is only guaranteed in the bigger cities. Syringes can be obtained from pharmacies and machines, which are frequently out of order, and found in a few places around Oslo. An AIDS Info Bus is parked in the city centre of Oslo every night, and syringes and condoms are distributed. It also offers an advisory service.
Methadone so far has not been available on prescription for drug users. Even patients with 15 to 20 years of heroin consumption have been refused substitution. Due to the threat of HIV/AIDS, health authorities have been forced to reconsider their strict principles. Meanwhile the Detoxification Unit and the Infectious Diseases Unit of the Ulleval Hospital in Oslo have launched a project which gives six intravenous drug users who are suffering from AIDS the possibility of Methadone substitution. Authorities still refuse to give the drug to consumers with a long history or even to seropositive users.
Rehabilitation is offered by a number of organizations, both private and governmental. A number of institutions are run on a religious basis, offering dubious therapies that involve hard physical work combined with emotional training, praying and Bible reading. There are also some governmental programmes aimed at young people with a short history of drug consumption.
Mainly some private religious organizations provide counselling for people with HIV/AIDS and their families. Pluss in Oslo is an independent self-help organization for seropositives, which is also in contact with E.l.G.D.U.