August 8, 2002


In Scenic Norway, Fearful Death Scene of Addicts (WARREN HOGE, 8/02/02, New York Times)
It is a sunny morning, and the Oslo Fjord dances with reflections. Festive pennants flutter from a departing North Sea ferry, bicyclists pedal past the colonnade of the stock exchange building and sleek trams glide by, filled with downtown workers.

Oslo, capital of oil-rich Norway, is springing to daily life, but there is little movement from shabby clutches of people who have also become part of this harborside landscape. They slump in a row by a derelict corrugated tin warehouse and lie curled up on the surrounding docks. Their bodies are emaciated, and their faces are as spent and vacant as any that Edvard Munch, the Norwegian artist of angst, ever painted. Many are asleep, others nod their heads listlessly.

One young man in black shirt and trousers does not stir. He is the latest entry in a tabulation this prosperous city takes no satisfaction in topping: Europe's drug overdose capital.

A report from the Council of Europe's narcotics-monitoring Pompidou Group says Oslo is first among 42 European cities in seizures and deaths caused by drugs. Oslo had 115 such deaths last year, down from a peak of 134 in 1998, but still the highest on the Continent. In Norway as a whole, the toll is rising, with 338 deaths in 2001, up from 75 in 1990. [...]

While politicians dither, addicts by the hundreds openly buy drugs in Oslo's central plaza and walk the two blocks back to the fjordside shooting gallery, pull out their tourniquets and needles and get high in public. [...]

[T]hough possessing, using and peddling heroin are all illegal and subject to harsh punishment, officers are sent in only when scuffles break out or obviously under-age people appear.

And people want to legalize this? Posted by Orrin Judd at August 8, 2002 8:39 PM
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