Concerns escalate over reduction in substance abuse Research in Norway
30.10.2023 - The integration of the Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIRUS) into the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) in 2016 has led to a significant reduction in workforce, from 35 full-time positions to now just 18. Many of the remaining staff also hold part-time positions elsewhere. The FHI's substance abuse research department is set to face further downsizing in January 2024, with several positions transferring to the Directorate of Health, leaving only eight personnel in the social science-based substance abuse research team.
Senior researcher Tord Finne Vedøy from FHI’s department of substance abuse and tobacco expressed his bafflement and concern over the downsizing, emphasizing the critical role such research teams play in evaluating drug reforms from a neutral standpoint. He foresees challenges in assessing major drug reforms if the current downsizing trend continues, possibly leading to a reliance on private alternatives or non-substance-abuse-related research teams.
Lan Marie Nguyen Berg of the Green Party has sought clarity on the issue from Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol, questioning the safety of weakening the research environment and the government’s commitment to strengthening research in upcoming substance abuse reforms. Kjerkol responded, highlighting the reorganization's aim to optimize resource utilization and improve support to communities, with a promise of more details in the upcoming prevention and treatment reform.
MDG leader Arild Hermstad voiced concerns over the detrimental effects of weakening the substance abuse research team at FHI, underlining the societal challenges posed by substance abuse. He expressed disappointment with both the previous and current governments, calling for strengthened research to lend credibility to the upcoming reforms.
FHI recently received a letter from the affected research team, describing the process as "appalling" and "undemocratic", emphasizing the societal impacts of diminishing substance abuse research, and the potential harm to vulnerable societal groups.