Back in 2001, Portugal decriminalized drug use. Yes – heroin, coke, all the scary bad ones. Instead of treating drugs as a criminal issue, the country decided to instead treat it as a public health problem. Now, instead of being arrested for possession of drugs, users will pay a small fine and be referred to a drug treatment program.
This change in approach has people’s eyes wide open. Since the legislation went into effect, there are now just 3 average drug overdose deaths for every 1,000,000 citizens in Portugal.
From The Independent:
Perhaps more significantly, the report notes that the use of “legal highs” – like so-called “synthetic” marijuana, “bath salts” and the like – is lower in Portugal than in any of the other countries for which reliable data exists. This makes a lot of intuitive sense: why bother with fake weed or dangerous designer drugs when you can get the real stuff? This is arguably a positive development for public health in the sense that many of the designer drugs that people develop to skirt existing drug laws have terrible and often deadly side effects.
Although it’s impossible to directly tie the low overdose deaths to drug decriminalization, it’s notable that the disastrous effects of drug decriminalization many critics warned would come simply aren’t there.
“The reality is that Portugal’s drug situation has improved significantly in several key areas,” the Transform Drug Policy Foundation said in a statement.
“Most notably, HIV infections and drug-related deaths have decreased, while the dramatic rise in use feared by some has failed to [materialize].”
[Featured image: AP]