Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Portugal: Decriminalizing drug usage leads to less drug users

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Flag of Portugal
Flag of Portugal

In which a decade-long Portuguese social experiment confirms what rational folks have known to be obvious all along: If you treat drug addicts as patients rather than evildoers, you get better results. Namely, less drug addicts:

LISBON — Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal's decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.

"There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal," said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.

The number of addicts considered "problematic" -- those who repeatedly use "hard" drugs and intravenous users -- had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.

Other factors had also played their part however, Goulao, a medical doctor added.

"This development can not only be attributed to decriminalisation but to a confluence of treatment and risk reduction policies."

Portugal's holistic approach had also led to a "spectacular" reduction in the number of infections among intravenous users and a significant drop in drug-related crimes, he added.

It’s important to note that Portugal didn’t outright legalize drug use, but merely decriminalized it. Drug users are still castigated, but rather than be charged, convicted and sent to jail, they’re now routed through treatment centers that are only possible thanks to the 2001-era criminalization repeal.

A lesson for us all, wot?

(via The Agitator)