Finland is often highlighted as a shining example on the world stage. Thanks to its advanced healthcare system, low crime rate and wealth of natural beauty, the United Nations has named it world’s happiest country five years in a row.

But behind the romantic snapshots of snow-covered villages, the Nordic nation has a growing problem.

Finland is the European country with the highest percentage of under-25s who die from drugs.

Year 2022 almost 30% of the injured was 25 and younger, and drug addicts in Finland die on average ten years younger than in other EU countries.

Many overdoses occur due to the presence of multiple substances in the body, especially buprenorphine, benzodiazepines and alcohol.

Euronews reporter Hans von der Brelie has been in Finland to find the faces behind the figures.

Niko is a 25-year-old with substance abuse disorder. “I first started smoking marijuana when I was 12,” he tells Hans. “When I was 16, I was doing opium tea and I started using ecstasy, amphetamines, and then came the whole range of drugs.”

“I lost a lot of friends when I was younger,” he explains. “When I was twenty, they started falling like apples from trees.”

Niko will soon be sent to prison due to criminal behavior. He sees his time behind bars as a chance to stop using.

Only 20% of those with addiction syndrome receive treatment in Finland, compared to 70% in neighboring Sweden.

Suvi and Ninja work for the Blue Ribbon Foundation in Finland, an organization that supports the homeless and those struggling with addiction.

The women are for supervised injection rooms, a place where people can take drugs in a hygienic environment, observed by a professional. These rooms are mainly located in Germany and the Netherlands and have been shown to reduce injection-related injuries.

“People use drugs in these places,” Suvi gestures towards a public toilet. “They are very dangerous to human health.”

Nevertheless, Hans’ meeting with Tomi, a former user, provides a ray of hope against the dark background of Finland’s drug problem.

Tomi has been clean for two years, after four drug-induced, near-death experiences.

He overcame his addiction after a stint in prison.

Now, with a new baby, he dreams of becoming a firefighter and starting over.

He tells Hans, “I step into my new life and go out there to see where my wings will carry me.”