Sweden takes strong measures to curb rising alcohol and drug abuse
A proposal that alcoholics and drug addicts be given compulsory treatment will be debated by the Swedish parliament (Riksdag) later this year. If approved the proposal will become law on Jan. 1, 1982.Skip to next paragraph
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Under the proposal submitted by a special social services committee, alcoholics and addicts would be treated against their will if found to be "in pressing need" and if their physical and mental health was thought to be endangered by their dependency.
The treatment would be for two months with the option of a further two months if necessary.
There is broad political support for the proposal, the result of nearly 13 years of debate, but there is bound to be vociferous opposition from civil-rights groups outside the parliament.
Stockholm police chief Hans Holmer has also proposed controversial measures to combat the increasing drug problem in Sweden.
Holmer called for the right to use concealed microphones, to tap telephones and to investigate private bank transactions. "There is no ideal solution around the corner," he said. "A lot of uncomfortable decisions need to be taken now."
Since the mid-1970s there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of heroin finding its way into Sweden. The latest survey by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs says there are between 10,000 and 14,000 hard-drug users in Sweden out of a total population of 8.5 million.
But detective inspector Hans Johansson of the Stockholm narcotics squad says the official figures are far too low.
According to Mr. Johansson, "The breaking of the French connection and the ending of the Vietnam war, which had been steadily creating addicts and opening markets in America, led to a sudden situation of overproduction. As the market contracted in the [United] States, the international crime syndicates started looking to Europe as a market for the heroin they had on their hands."
Sweden, with a relatively strong economy and teen-agers with plenty of money to spend, was an obvious choice, says Johansson.
Ironically the main center for drug pushing in Stockholm is Sergels Torg, the modern square in front of the parliament building.
Sweden has always been sensitive about its alcohol problem. But the sudden influx of heroin took the nation unawares.
Only now has the reaction set in with a rash of official reports and proposals.
One antidrug poster aimed at hash smokers displays an uncharacteristic streak of black humor: Beneath a picture of a teen-age boy behind bars is the caption, "Ha sh takes you to places you've never been before."