Mikko Ylikangas: Unileipää, kuolonvettä, spiidiä. Huumeet Suomessa 1800–1950 [Opium, death’s tincture, speed. Drugs in Finland 1800–1950]

29 April 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Unileipää, kuolonvettä, spiidiä. Huumeet Suomessa 1800–1950
[Opium, death’s tincture, speed. Drugs in Finland 1800–1950]
Jyväskylä: Atena, 2009. 264 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-796-578-1
€ 34, hardback

This book presents an account of the history of drugs in Finland, as well as changes in legal and illegal drug use. Even in the early 19th century, the authorities were concerned about opium abuse. Medical doctor Elias Lönnrot – best known for collecting the folk poems that make up the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic – coined the name ‘unileipä’, ‘the staff of dreams’, for opium. A period of prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s spurred a huge increase in the sale of cocaine; in the 1930s Finland led the Western world in consumption of heroin as a cough suppressant. In the late 1940s, the United Nations investigated why Finland, with a population of four million, consumed as much heroin in a year as other countries did over an average of 25 years. This was explained by the severity of wartime conditions: drugs were used to maintain battle readiness and to combat anxiety, sleeplessness and tuberculosis. Social problems caused by misuse did not, however, get out of control. This book was awarded a prize for the best science book of the year in Finland in 2009.

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