Investigate 20 Prescription Drug-Related Deaths

Twenty deaths involving prescription drugs are under investigation by police in the capital area, RÚVreports. Detective Chief Superintendent Karl Steinar Valsson says that drug dealers are increasingly turning toward selling prescription drugs, not least because the penalties for selling them are far less severe than for selling illegal narcotics.

Opioids, and young people’s abuse of these drugs, have been a topic of much discussion of late, particularly as opioid use has increased in the last six months.

“This year, we have around 20 deaths investigations here in the capital,” said Karl Steinar. “In some instances, these are cases of suicide, in other cases not—or at any rate, the investigations haven’t shown that.”

The deaths have involved a wide variety of drugs and in some cases, a mixture of prescription drugs and illegal narcotics. Karl Steinar says that the landscape is changing.

“The people who have been selling narcotics have also been shifting over to selling prescription medications that they procure in a variety of ways. And maybe only because the market has in some way opened up to this—it’s both that the availability of prescriptions has increased and that users are prepared to buy these drugs. It seems like it must be very profitable, because otherwise, people wouldn’t do it. And then, of course, the sales model for this is naturally always shifting more and more to the internet.”

There is also the fact that penalties for selling prescription drugs are far less severe than those for selling illegal narcotics. “…That’s of course one reason that people involved in these kinds of illegal activities—often organized crime operations—look to this. Because the punishments are much lighter.”

It’s also clear that some people who are written prescriptions by their doctors are selling those medications on the black market. Karl Steinar says that this is on the increase in Iceland and is something that requires urgent attention.

Eight Midwives Withdraw Resignations

Eight midwives have redrawn their resignations from the National and University Hospital, Vísir reports. This came in the wake of the contract that the Icelandic Association of Midwives voted to approve on Wednesday afternoon after a 10-month-long wage dispute between the association and the government. The new contract was approved by a 95% majority and with an impressive 91% of midwives taking part in the vote.

A total of 34 midwives tendered their resignations over the course of their increasingly contentious negotiations with the government. Linda Kristmundsdóttir, the head of the Women’s and Children’s department at the National and University Hospital, says that she hopes more midwives will withdraw their resignations and return to work. The maternity ward at the hospital reopened this week after closing during the previous when the midwives collectively agreed to stop working any overtime hours. Linda says that the ward is getting back onto its feet now, albeit slowly, but that they still are lacking the staff they need across all shifts. Therefore it’s important, she says, that everyone who tendered their resignations return to their jobs.

Workers of Foreign Origin Involved in a Quarter of Workplace Accidents

Workers of foreign origin only make up 12% of the Icelandic workforce and yet are involved in a quarter of work-related accidents in Iceland, RÚV reports.

Guðmundur Kjerúlf, the assistant manager of the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health’s PR department, says that foreign workers need better training and education in order to cut back on work-related accidents. “We need to explain things better to them,” he said. “We need to train them better. We need to ask ourselves about the kind of projects we’re assigning to them. They don’t know the language. They don’t know the culture. They don’t know the weather. So we need to give them more assistance.”

Additional findings on work-related accidents reported by the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health include that law enforcement is the profession with the highest rate of workplace accidents in Iceland, although work-related accidents in general have been on the increase since 2010 and serious on-the-job falls have also increased. Over the last decade, a worker has died after a serious fall every other year. Falls in the workplace have resulted in broken bones in 153 instances in the last two years. Just this summer, Occupational Safety has closed down several workplaces in which people were working at a great height without any sort of safety precautions in place in case they fall.

Icelanders Most Positive in Europe About Multiculturalism

Icelanders have progressively become more positive about immigration and multiculturalism and the country now holds the most liberal views on these matters in Europe, Kjarninn reports. These were among the findings published in the most recent European Social Survey, “an academically driven cross-national survey [that]…measures the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of diverse populations in more than thirty nations.”

The survey, which began in 2001, was conducted in 23 countries and involved interviews with 44,387 participants, including 880 Icelanders. The most recent findings come from the eighth survey, conducted in 2016, which marked the third time that Iceland had participated. Iceland previously took part in the surveys conducted in 2004 and 2012.

Among the questions asked were whether participants felt that immigrants had a positive or negative impact on the economy, as well as whether they believed that immigrants made the country a better or worse place to live. In the current survey, 69% of Icelanders reported that they believed that immigrants had a positive impact on the economy and 78% reported that they believed that immigrants made Iceland a better place to live. Both of these percentages are by far the highest of all European countries. Ireland and Sweden were, however, not far behind, both reporting around 60% positivity to the same questions.

Another survey question was related to multiculturalism, specifically whether participants believed that the culture of the home country was enriched by immigrants. 78% of Icelanders answered affirmatively to this, which was, again, the highest positive response rate in Europe. The next highest positive response rate came from Finland (77%) and then Sweden (72%).

Austria, Lithuania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Russia were found to be the most hostile toward foreign cultural influence. For instance, only 17% of Russians reported that they believed that immigrants had a positive effect on the cultural life of their country.

Iceland also ranked highly when asked whether or not their government should be generous in granting residence permits to asylum seekers. 56% said yes, and 15% of these reported that they were extremely in favor of this. This is the third highest response rate in Europe. Portugal reported the highest in this category (71%), followed by Ireland (59%).

When Icelanders’ responses in this year’s survey are compared to those given in 2004 and 2012, it’s clear that Icelanders’ attitudes towards immigrants and multiculturalism have become increasingly positive in recent years. In 2004, 68% of Icelanders reported that they believed that immigrants improved the cultural life of the country; 69% affirmed this in 2012.

See the full survey findings here.