Opioid Abuse Among Young People Growing More Common

Opioid abuse among individuals 25 years old and younger has grown more common, according to Dr. Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir, the Medical Director of SÁÁ (the National Centre of Addiction Medicine). Valgerður addressed the audience at a conference at the Hilton Nordica hotel yesterday, Mbl.is reports.

A “New Opioid Crisis”

Speaking to Iceland Review last month, Dr. Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir, the Medical Director of SÁÁ (National Centre of Addiction Medicine) stated that talk of a “new opioid crisis” in Iceland was not an exaggeration.

Referring to the data, Valgerður noted that between 2010 and 2022, the percentage of patients being treated for opioid addiction at the Vogur detox centre and rehabilitation hospital rose by approximately 200% (from 10.3% to ca. 30% of the clinic’s patients). Furthermore, these patients are twice as likely to relapse than others, and thirty-five of those who have sought treatment over the past five years have died.

Read More: In Harm’s Way: Harm Reduction in the Age of Opioids

Yesterday, Valgerður addressed the audience at a conference held by SÁÁ and FÁR (the Association of Alcohol and Drug Advisors) at the Hilton Nordica hotel in Reykjavík between November 2 and 3. According to her lecture, prescription opioid abuse – including opioids like Contalgin, Oxycontin, and Fentanyl – among individuals 25 and younger has grown more common.

Although opioid abuse is on the rise, alcohol is still the most commonly abused intoxicant in Iceland. Speaking to Mbl.is, Valgerður noted that the problems were “of a different nature” when individuals are abusing potent prescription drugs.

Valgerður also noted that the percentage of working individuals who are admitted to the Vogur rehabilitation centre has declined to 30%. Given this, it was important that the Icelandic Vocational Rehabilitation Fund (VIRK) no longer mandates a 3-6 month sober period as a condition for entering into vocational rehabilitation.

The aforementioned conference was the first to be sponsored jointly by SÁÁ and FÁR. Valgerður told Mbl.is that many parties, including VIRK, FÁR, SÁÁ, and municipal authorities, are determined to work together to combat substance abuse in Iceland.

‘There are Direct Connections with Human Development’: Stickleback Conference Sheds Light on Human Genetics

The 10th International Conference on Stickleback Behaviour and Evolution was held at the University of Hólar in North Iceland this week. RÚV reports that the stickleback is one of the most researched fish in the world and has led to significant advances in the fields of both ethology, the science of animal behaviour, and genetics. Research on stickleback behaviour laid the foundation for modern behavioural science, even earning Dutch biologist Niko Tinbergen a Nobel Prize in 1973.

The Stickleback Conference made its triumphant return after a long hiatus due to COVID-19. The last conference took place in Kyoto, Japan, in 2018. The turnout was good for this year’s five-day event at Hólar: 70 scientists from around the world gathered to share their research. Professor Bjarni Kristofer Kristjánsson said those gathered only scratched the surface of what they could potentially discuss when it comes to the small, but fascinating fish.

“The stickleback is one of the most researched fish in the world, and there are many reasons for that,” he said. “Essentially, people in behavioural studies have been really interested in them. They’ve got interesting reproductive behaviour. The male fish dances before spawning and builds a nest and becomes really colourful and manifests really strong behavioural patterns.”

Illustration of the threespine stickleback. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, CC 2.0.

Sticklebacks are also ideal research subjects because they are easy to raise in tanks and selectively breed, which is very useful when conducting experiments.

“[The stickleback] has opened up a number of avenues [for us] to try and understand,” said Bjarni. “Like the development and evolution of vertebrates. We are vertebrates, of course, so there are direct connections with human development.”

Bjarni says that sticklebacks are central to a wide range of diverse research, which is part of why the conference is so much fun.

“You might hear lectures from ecologists or parasitologists. Then there’ll be some lectures about the genome and the development of the Y chromosome.”

Indeed, the conference schedule was quite varied including talks on paternal care in threespine sticklebacks, developmental plasticity in eco-evolutionary population dynamics, “evolutionary ménage a trois,” personality-dependent colonization success, Molecular mechanisms of adaptation to freshwater, biological memory of climate variability and extreme events, foraging niche and diet variation, positive selection throughout regulatory elements on the threespine stickleback Y chromosome, “a stickleback approach to human genetic evolution,” and much more.

Facing North

The Arctic Circle Assembly took place in Harpa last October. Dignitaries from all over the world attended the event, filling up the conference centre with important-looking people in suits, younger people in tighter-fitting suits handing them papers, and slightly-more-dishevelled people with backpacks poring over figures and data with a look of concern.

The doyen at the helm of this event, which even now, when a global pandemic is raging, brings more than 1,500 in-person participants from over 50 countries to Reykjavík, is Iceland’s former president for over two decades, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. The Assembly was cancelled in 2020, but this year, Ólafur Ragnar sent out invites for a party.

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2,000 Attend World Geothermal Congress in Iceland

Carbfix Hellisheiðarvirkjun

The World Geothermal Congress, held in Reykjavík’s iconic Harpa Concert Hall this week, has drawn 1,100 in person guests and another 900 virtual attendees from around 100 different countries. Bjarni Pálsson, chairman of the congress’ organisational committee, says it is a big recognition for Iceland to be selected as the conference site this year.

“We have been really lucky with our resources and have been able to utilise them very well for a long period,” Bjarni told RÚV, adding that other countries are looking to Iceland for assistance on how to utilise their geothermal energy sources. Iceland is also the site of a special geothermal training program established by the Icelandic government and the United Nations University in 1978. The program brings geothermal professionals from developing countries around the world to Iceland for a six-month intensive training program in geothermal science and engineering.

One fifth of the lectures and articles presented at this year’s congress are from the school’s graduates. Ingimar G. Haraldsson, the school’s assistant director, says Iceland is a great location for the program. “The knowledge here is so broad,” he stated. “We live in a northerly region and have such a great need for heating. We have direct utilisation; heating homes, swimming pools, aquaculture, greenhouses, even snowmelt. You can find specialists in so many areas here in Iceland.”

The next World Geothermal Congress is scheduled to take place in Beijing in three years.

Her Voice Holds Conference on Health of Foreign Women in Iceland

Hennar Rödd / Her Voice, a nonprofit which “strives to raise awareness of the experiences of women of foreign origin in Iceland” will be holding a conference in Reykjavík today, Saturday October 2.

Topics to be discussed include the experience of women of foreign origin within the Icelandic healthcare system, not least as regards accessibility and cultural sensitivity, as well as mental health, sexual health, and freedom. The conference will take place in Icelandic and English and be translated into Polish and English.

Hennar Rödd / Her Voice received funding from the Icelandic Gender Equality Fund to support the conference, which will open with remarks from First Lady Eliza Reid, who is herself originally from Canada. Participants include activists, educators, politicians, artists, researchers, and professionals from Germany, Jamaica, Mexico, Morocco, Poland, Scotland, Singapore, Somalia, and the US.

Inspired by her mother

Hennar Rödd / Her Voice was founded by Chanel Björk Sturludóttir and Elínborg Kolbeinsdóttir and took its inspiration from Chanel’s mother, Letetia B. Jonsson, who is of Jamaican and British descent and lived in Iceland about 10 years ago.

“Whilst living in Iceland, Letetia participated in the community of women of foreign origin and met many inspiring women with whom she shared similar challenges in regards to integrating to Icelandic society as well as the language barriers they met,” explains text on the Her Voice website. “As Letetia’s daughter, Chanel experiences these challenges that women of foreign origin in Iceland face through her mother. These difficulties affected Chanel’s own experience as a mixed-race Icelander and encouraged her to take on this matter. After looking to her friend, Elínborg Kolbeinsdóttir, who studied sociology and human rights, they decided to join forces and found an organisation with the common goal to raise awareness of the experiences of women of foreign origin in Icelandic society.”

Her Voice focuses on four key challenges faced by women of foreign origin in Iceland: Language acquistion, Gender-based violence, high unemployment rates, and barriers to adequate health care.

Those who would like to attend the conference can join Her Voice at the same time; a combined ticket and membership costs ISK 1,500. A ticket alone is ISK 1,000. Find out more on the conference website here.

 

 

Tech Conference Invites Guests to Mind-Control Drones, Drink Robot Cocktails

The UTmessan tech conference and expo will open its doors to the public free-of-charge on Saturday, RÚV reports, inviting guests to enjoy cocktails made by robots, fly drones with nothing but their thoughts, and cross paths with a 3-meter- [9-foot]-tall robotic dinosaur as it stalks around the Harpa Conference Center.

UTmessan brings together IT companies from Iceland and abroad and aims to “highlight the importance of information technology and its effects on individuals, businesses and Icelandic society alike,” reads the description on the event website. “The goal is to see a significant increase in the number of students who choose technical disciplines in universities across the country and especially in computer science.”

The open event will also give visitors a chance to see British artist Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon installation, which features an inflatable moon on which high definition images of the lunar surface are projected, creating an accurate, if miniature version of the real thing. According to the artwork’s homepage, each centimetre of the internally lit spherical sculpture represents 5 km of the moon’s surface.

UTmessan will be open to the public from 10am – 5pm at Harpa on Saturday, February 9. The event is free.