July 29, 2017

Portugal shows that decriminalizing drugs works

Mic - Portugal had one of the worst heroin epidemics in the Western world. At one point in the 1990s, a staggering 1% of the population was addicted to heroin. Overdoses were rampant, and drug-related deaths from AIDS were the highest in the European Union.

Reeling from a dire public health crisis and seeing no results from a conventional war on drugs, the Portuguese government decided it had to chart a new course, and in 2001 it decriminalized the possession of all drugs. People caught with less than a 10-day supply of a drug are directed to "dissuasion commissions," usually composed of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker, who recommend treatment or a minor fine. Most of the time, someone who sits before a dissuasion commission faces no penalty whatsoever.

Since Portugal decriminalized drugs 14 years ago, governments and drug policy experts around the world have scrutinized data about drug use coming out of the country. Studies in recent years suggest their grand experiment has been a success. Still, 14 years is a small window to measure a massive policy, and any new information is critical for fleshing out the nature and effects of decriminalization.

Data from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, reported recently by the Washington Post, does just that. According to the center's 2015 report, Portugal has the second-lowest drug overdose rate of every European country measured in the report.

Chart comparing countries

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"14 years is a small window to measure a massive policy"

The US "war on drugs" was pretty obviously a failure at 14 years. Of course that didn't stop all those who make a profit off it from continuing it for another 24 years (and counting). If Sessions gets his way, and doesn't get fired, resigns, or ousted in disgrace, it could last a lot longer.