Alcohol and drug use is considered to represent one of the main current threats to the health and safety of people in Finland. For instance, some 20 per cent of all healthcare costs are thought to be attributable to the use of the substances in.
Alcohol and drug use has increased significantly over the past few decades. The problem took on new proportions in the 1990s when drug use and drug-related harm began to increase sharply. Among younger age groups, the share of those who have tried cannabis is in the range of 15–30 per cent, and the number of amphetamine and opiate users is estimated at between 16,000 and 21,000. Alcohol consumption has grown more steadily, but in 2004 there were rather dramatic changes in the Finnish alcohol landscape.
Alcohol and drug use has various adverse health effects, psychological effects and societal consequences. These find expression in physical diseases, problems associated with intoxication and addiction. At the population level, the most serious harms are those that derive from impaired behaviour under intoxication and chronic illnesses.
In most cases, alcohol and drug use does not lead to addiction, nor does addiction explain most substance use or related harms. Patterns and habits of alcohol and drug use are dependent on the availability of substances and on the social relations of users and their immediate environment. Other factors that have a bearing on alcohol and drug use include the informal norms, beliefs and rituals that are distinctive of each culture.
Preparation of the programme
The first initiative for a Research Programme on Substance Use and Addictions came in response to the Finnish Government's decision in principle on drug policy in 1998: on 21 June 1999, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health submitted to the Academy of Finland an initiative for setting up a cross-administrative drug programme.
Trying to meet the challenges and initiatives, the Academy started to prepare a research programme for the years 2006–2010. In March 2004, a preparatory group was appointed for the programme. The programme is a joint effort of three Academy research councils (Biosciences and Environment, Health, and Culture and Society)
Research into substance use and drugs is a multidisciplinary exercise, involving the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities.
Research themes for the programme were as follows:
- Macro changes in alcohol policy and consumption, socio-economic differences in drinking habits, and harms
- Drug use and harms and drug policy
- Research into treatments and recovery processes
- Research into addiction behaviour and addiction mechanisms
The programme offered a platform for a variety of national and international symposia, workshops and series of seminars with the aim of promoting research into substance use and addictions and facilitate communication among scientists in this field.
The programme operated in close connection with universities, research institutes, ministries and other key players to promote research and education. Dissemination of information to policy-makers, enterprises and the general public was also enhanced through programme coordination.
The Research Programme on Substance Use and Addictions (ADDIKTIO) was internationally co-funded. The participating funding organisations were the Academy of Finland, the Institute of Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA/Canadian Institutes of Health Research), the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) and the Russian Foundation for Humanities (RFH).
The programme was coordinated by Programme Manager Mikko Ylikangas, Academy of Finland