06 Oct 2017

Estonia's unfaced drug problem

Estonians have gotten used to witnessing various odd behaviors in public spaces, like incessant scratching, a common withdrawal symptom.

Marta Tuul
Marta Tuul Eesti Ekspress, Estonia
Source: Eesti Ekspress
Estonia's unfaced drug problem - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

Estonia has the highest proportion of injection drug addicts and the highest drug overdose rate in the European Union.

The problem is so dire that Estonians have gotten used to witnessing various odd behaviors in public spaces, like incessant scratching, a common withdrawal symptom. Along with amphetamines, fentanyl -- an opiate -- makes up for the bulk of Estonia's drug problem.

There are an estimated  9,000 to 10,000 users of injected drugs in the country. Approximately 60% live in the capital, Tallinn.

Journalists from the Estonian investigative newspaper Eesti Ekspress decided to face the problem head-on. They picked a location based on a tip from a local and headed there to gauge just how many addicts it attracted in a month. The outcome was shocking. 

Within the first half-hour, they saw an addict inject drugs into his wrist in front of passersby -- on a major street frequented by schoolchildren and mighty politicians alike.

Details from the story:

  • 9,000 to 10,000 people inject drugs in Estonia. About 6,000 of them live in Tallinn
  • On average, overdose kills one person every three days
  • Estonia has the highest proportion of injection drug addicts and has the highest drug overdose rate in the European Union
  • So far this year, there were at least 171 new cases of HIV in Estonia
  • The most commonly injected drugs are fentanyl -- an opioid -- and amphetamines. 
  • Almost 35% of all injectors live in Tallinn's Lasnamäe district. 
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