ALCOHOL and DRUG REPORT
The Nordic and Baltic region has been an exciting laboratory for everyone interested in alcohol research and policy. With Nordic countries, we have a long and effective experience with WHO recommended alcohol policies and with that one of the lowest alcohol consumption and harm rates in Europe. Baltic countries, understanding the different situation they are coming from, has had one of the highest consumption rates in Europe and thus also in the world and has also struggled with introducing actual alcohol strategies. Within the last few years, a significant change has taken place, and Lithuania and Estonia have adopted new regulations that are now showing the way to rest of Europe. Latvia is also planning further changes that include stronger alcohol advertising limits etc.
Nordic Alcohol Policy Report is beginning to broaden its scope by adding chapters also on different drugs. Although the Nordic countries are often seen as ideal in practically every global ranking of quality of life and social equality, the number of drug-related deaths in these countries is among the highest in Europe. Together with Baltic countries.
Opioids, including heroin, methadone and buprenorphine, account for the majority of fatal overdoses in these countries.
The following page provides a summary of the main comparative data, and more detailed reports can be found from each country report.
2020/2021 will be in the history books. For many reasons, but COVID-19 will definitely define these years. At the moment we can only hope that it will be limited to these years.
Alcohol plays a vital role in this context, as drinking can impair many aspects of the immune system and make you more vulnerable to the virus. It also overburdens the health system that needs resources to focus on handling the pandemic. As several experts have pointed out, alcohol is this viruses best friend. Due to the incapacity of drunken people to keep physical distance, drinking places have often become infection points. The States have reacted accordingly, and we have seen from complete alcohol sales bans to limited hours both in bars and restaurants and in retail sales.
While Nordic retail monopolies have made sales records, the overall consumption levels have, in most cases, declined as the on-sales location have been closed or with limited capacities. This is not the case everywhere though, and we also can see an increase in specific alcohol-related harms, like home violence for instance. As a result of an extraordinary circumstance, like the COVID pandemic, it is likely that alcohol consumption and the harms that it causes do not behave as we would expect from earlier experiences.
Full closure of borders or limiting travel between countries has seriously decreased cross-border trade, one of our region's significant drivers for alcohol sales. It has all created another situation that will be exciting research material for scientists in the coming years.
A new topic on which NordAN started to work this year is opioids. You find new chapters in this report opening the complicated problem and statistics of the opioid problem. Our long-term goal is to identify something we could call best-buy interventions, which could effectively help solve this problem with different faces in our different countries.
Look back at 2020 editorial update
Alcohol consumption levels in Nordic/Baltic countries
# Methods how countries measure alcohol consumption differs. Find more detailed information from each country report.