Even Far-Northern Norway is Subjected to Drug Trafficking and Addiction

Northern Norway City

Like other European countries, Norway struggles with the trafficking of drugs and the addiction of its citizens. But Norway has been dedicated to fighting back, utilizing both treatment and prevention measures. They instituted an expansive anti-drug program in 2007 and when the five-year term of this program ended, a review showed that nearly every one of the 147 recommendations had been achieved.

Despite progress on many fronts, Norway still suffers from a high rate of drug overdose deaths. In 2015, this rate was 81 deaths per million residents, compared to a European average of 22 deaths. The country continues to look for effective ways to reverse this trend.

Drug Trafficking Paths to Norway

For many years, cocaine made its way from South American into Europe via Spain, sometimes with a stop-off in Western Africa. In the last few years, that trafficking pattern has changed. Now, the bulk of cocaine comes in through the vast Belgian port in Antwerp, a much more direct route to Norway.

How much has this trafficking increased? In 2013, 4,000 kilograms of cocaine was seized in Antwerp. By 2017, that number had shot up to 40,000 kg. In March of 2019, 1500 kg was seized in just one shipment that was supposed to hold bananas.

Most of this cocaine goes directly to the Netherlands where it is cut and prepared for sale. From there, it can be trucked across the Øresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden and then moved into Norway, or sent by boat directly to Oslo.

Heroin and cannabis seizures in Antwerp are also on the rise.

The Norwegian Addiction Profile

We can get the picture of addiction in Norway by looking at what drugs drive Norwegians into drug treatment programs. According to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction, the top category of admissions is “Other” at 39% of all admissions. This means that in most cases, the user was consuming multiple drugs simultaneously. The most popular combination is opioids and amphetamines. Most often, the deadly opioid being consumed is heroin.

The next-largest category is cannabis admissions at 29% of the approximately 18,000 people entering treatment. Heroin alone sends 18% and amphetamines by themselves send 13%. More than two-thirds of treatment admissions are for outpatient care.

But if cocaine is flooding the Northern Europe market, we may see these admission ratios change in the next few years.

Of course, as in other European countries, some Norwegians are buying new synthetic drugs from illicit and secret websites, but as yet, the rate of use of these drugs is low.

Norwegian Youth

A bright spot in the landscape of drug abuse in Norway is the low rates of drug use by youth. In most categories including alcohol consumption, their rate of use is half that of the European average. The only exceptions are tranquilizers, which are used almost equally in Norway as in other countries, and inhalants, which have a slightly lower rate of use.

Very few females between the ages of 16 and 34 use cocaine, amphetamines or MDMA (Ecstasy). Use by males is much higher, especially for cocaine. Both genders use cannabis, with about 11% of males and 6% of females in this age group reporting cannabis use.

Effects of Drug Use and Addiction

Here are some snapshots of the effects that drug use has on this country and its citizens.

  • Compared to the European average, people in Norway who are dying from their drug use are older. In fact, the age group with the highest number of drug deaths is from 50 to 54. The most common age for drug-related deaths in the rest of Europe is from 35 to 39. The drug that most commonly causes these deaths is heroin, found in 87% of these losses. Three times as many men lose their lives as women.
  • In an attempt to save these lives, a drug consumption room was created in Oslo, the only one in the country. This is a place where those who are addicted can inject drugs under medical supervision. Only heroin is allowed to be used in this facility. Staff in the facility are on hand to refer anyone to treatment who is willing to get help.
  • In 2016, Norway decriminalized drugs like cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines and heroin for personal use. It was the first Scandinavian country to do so.
  • But in 2017, an analysis of Oslo wastewater showed that this city was the third-highest in Europe for amphetamine residues. MDMA residues tripled since 2012. MDMA is popular at night clubs, parties and music festivals and is mostly used by young people.
  • In 2018, Norway’s Health Minister proposed that 400 of those addicted to heroin start being given heroin by the government—a treatment referred to a “heroin-assisted treatment” or HAT. He commented that some people “are not motivated to become drug-free,” and that these people might be offered HAT. Still, one wonders if anyone truly wishes to stay addicted to heroin.

Norway Needs Solutions to Drug Use and Addiction

It is obvious that Norway has been willing to take action to fight this social and health hazard. There are 7500 opioid-addicted people being treated with medication-assisted treatment drugs like methadone and buprenorphine. Decriminalization was enacted with the idea of treating addiction primarily as a health problem, not a criminal one. What this country lacks is a broadly-available holistic program that helps people recover from the cravings, guilt and trauma of the years they spent addicted.

A short ferry ride away from the epicenter of Norway’s drug use problem in Oslo, you’ll find Narconon Europe. Situated in the countryside about 50 km north of Copenhagen, Narconon Europe offers Scandinavian residents a holistic, healthy method of rebuilding their lives after addiction.

This program does not give its clients medications that themselves have negative side effects or that continue their reliance on drugs. Instead, generous nutritional supplementation and support from staff make withdrawal as tolerable process. This is followed by an intensive sauna-based detoxification that washes away drug residues for improved physical and mental health. As these residues leave the body, many people remark that their physical cravings go with them.

Learning to Enjoy Life Again

Narconon Graduation

As each person gains a fresh, new viewpoint on life, they are better prepared to learn the skills they need to protect their fledgling sobriety. The remainder of the Narconon drug rehabilitation program teaches these skills.

The first step is to help each person learn how to leave trauma and pain in the past so they begin to enjoy life in the present. Without this fundamental change, it might never be possible to let go of the agony of their past addictions. This improvement is accomplished through a series of exercises that orient each person to their current environment. Gradually, the cumulative effect of these exercises is to release a person from the traps they created for themselves through their drug use.

They can then apply themselves to learning the skills they will need to repair relationships, recover from guilt and protect themselves from those who might wish them harm. Finally, they must learn how to make the right choices, even in challenging situations that might have once sent them in search of drugs or alcohol.

The truth is that lasting recovery is possible when the causes and residual effects of addiction are thoroughly addressed. A person who truly wishes to leave addiction behind does not necessarily have to rely on replacement drugs like methadone. They can, with the right support and training, recover the ability to enjoy sobriety and a productive life at a Narconon drug rehabilitation center like the one in Helsinge, Denmark.



For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.