Drinking and Drugs in Norway: What You Need to Know

Norway has one of the highest heroin addiction and overdose rates in Europe. But, how does this affect travelers, if at all?

A full moon rising above Oslo, Norway Photo © Håkon von Hirsch on Unsplash

As a result of alcohol and drug abuse in Norway, the majority of crime occurs at night in city centers. Petty theft and violence is rare, but keep your wits about you at night time no matter where you are to avoid trouble. However, as the police are determined to control the violence and criminal behavior of drug users, the real threats are to those who are buying or selling drugs themselves. Which means, most sensible travelers should feel safe in Norway's major cities.

Here's what you need to know about issues with drugs and alcohol in Norway.

Drug problems in Norway

Oslo earned itself the title of "Drug Death Capital of Europe", in 2002 which reflects the problems authorities have in dealing with drugs problems, particularly in Eastern Oslo. Narcotic drugs are still illegal in Norway although there have been discussions with the authorities to decriminalise the issue. Importing drugs into Norway has severe penalties and visitors are strongly advised against doing so.

The Norwegian drug scene is also the root cause of crime in the country, as addicts look for ways of funding their habit. One of the main reasons deaths are higher in Norway than other parts of Europe is that more people inject heroin rather than smoke it. Drugs users then mix this with Rohypnol and alcohol. It is believed that the hardcore drinking seen in Norway is to blame for this combination of substances. The police have surveillance in place at Oslo Central Station and Plaza, where drug dealing is common and there are needle exchange schemes in Norway.

There are around 5,500 people living with AIDS in Norway, which is lower than other parts of Europe, and visitors should exercise caution when dealing with bodily fluids and be vigilant for poorly disposed needles.

Rape has been on the increase in part of Oslo, particularly the Grunerlokka area of the city. Rohypnol used by drug addicts is also a substance used in date rape, and visitors should never leave drinks unattended in a bar or night club, and always be very cautious of drinks bought by strangers (best to politely say no).

Issues with alcohol in Norway

Norway has a number of problems with alcohol due to its reputation for hard core drinking, and has introduced legislation to try and address these issues. Visitors should be aware that drinking in a public place is illegal in Norway, and even drinking on your own balcony where you can be seen by others is technically against the law. Urinating in public is also illegal and if caught offenders will get an on the spot fine for up to 10,000 kroner. Making a nuisance of yourself while drunk is likely to end with a night in jail.

Drink driving is taken very seriously and the legal levels are well below the rest of Europe at 0.02%, with severe penalties. Drivers should not drink any alcohol at all. Drinking and falling over in winter can lead to the onset of hypothermia very quickly, and this in a cold climate can be fatal. So stay safe while partying in Norway, and always have a safe option to get you back home to your accommodation after a night out.

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  • Viggo said

    I don't know where you get your facts from, Mr. Sylvester, but drinking on your own balcony is perfectly fine and not against the law. Drinking in the parks of Oslo is illegal though, but seldom enforced.

  • TJ said

    This article makes Norway seem far worse than it is. The use of hard drugs is not common, and so long as you're reasonably cautious, petty theft is not something to worry about. I will concede that we norwegians do drink more than most other countries, but an important thing to note is that the vast minority of us are alcoholics, since most people only drink socially and/or to enjoy in smaller doses (As in, a few beers or glasses of wine some evenings). Also, although drinking in public is illegal, you are usually just asked to dispose of your drink.

  • Mmchilton said

    I think the Norwegian people are great. I watch live web cams daily from Tromso, Geiranger, Kirkenes and many other beautiful locations in Norway. I do frequently see men urinating in public....even to the point that I looked up if it were legal to do so. Doing this seems very "out of place" with the conservative nature of the people. Maybe just nature calling.

  • Jens said

    Norway has serious social problems the authorities fail to deal with effectively. It requires less effort to pretend everything is 'wonderful' and 'best i testen'. The problems then become worse therefore difficult to hide or massage out of statistics. The occassional exposure of serious failures are debated then, more often than not, forgot quickly. Very rarely are solutions persued and delivered with any committment. Norwegians are far to busy denying problems to solve them. The Norwegian paradox. Ever wondered why Norway doesn't attract many skilled expats?

  • peter said

    With family in Norway, I regularly travel to the country and get to dee first hand many of the problems the country has. A few years ago, it was almost unheard of to see someone intoxicated and I never saw anyone on drugs. Thing are changing. the number of Asians has increased exponentially and despite their social conscience, it is obvious most Norwegians don't like this influx. except on celebrations, I don't see drinking on the street but I do see more drunkenness. I am Scottish and Scotland has a reputation for being drinkers but I see it happen as much in Norway. there are more themed pubs and people brew their own at home to a greater extent than in Scotland.
    I love Bergen and I love hansa beer and long may I continue to visit the country - warts and all.


  • Damian Dayday said

    Very important facts . Is the limit 0.2 or .02 ???
    Very different figure's.

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