More Icelanders are losing their lives to drug abuse than ever before, according to information from the Directorate of Health, Fréttatíminn reports. In the past three years, drug abuse has killed close to 100 people. It claimed 26 lives in 2014 and 34 last year. So far this year, 23 lives have been lost. In most cases, the cause of death is a combination of drug and alcohol abuse. Last year, 19 people died of poisoning attributed to morphine-related drugs. Their average age was 49 years.
By comparison, 16 people died in traffic accidents in Iceland in 2015, and the average number of annual traffic-related deaths in the past ten years has been 16.
“We’re worried about this group, oftentimes young individuals, but opiates appear to be very dangerous for them,” stated Ólafur B. Einarsson, project manager at the Directorate of Health.
Last weekend, a 26-year-old lost his life in Reykjavík, but he is believed to have taken Fenanyl, a narcotic pain medicine sold in patches. Ólafur explained that because the substance needs to be extracted from patches and addicts oftentimes are unaware of the actual size of the dose, the drug is particularly dangerous.
The young man who died last weekend had been at a bar in downtown Reykjavík, along with friends. One of them lost consciousness at the bar, but survived. The 26-year-old died in his home. An investigation focuses on whether Fenanyl was to blame for both incidents, RÚV reports.
The problem is more widespread than people realize. In an article in August, published in the medical publication Læknablaðið, the Directorate of Health expressed worries because in 2013, the number of prescriptions for opiates in Iceland surpassed that of any other Nordic country. The total use of opiates has more than doubled in Iceland in the past two decades.
Iceland also ranks number one among the Nordic countries in the use of sleeping pills, sedatives, anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs), and stimulants, such as methylphenidates (Ritalin among them), which is popular among addicts. In 2015, the use of methylphenidates in Iceland was four times that of their use in Denmark