Decriminalization a Huge Success in Portugal


On the 10th anniversary of the decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal, the evidence shows that it is a major success. Treating drug addiction as a health problem instead of a criminal one has resulted in a 50% drop in addiction in that country.

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.

Of course, those treatment and risk reduction policies work far more effectively without criminalization.

Comments

  1. Chiroptera says

    Huh. People aren’t in jail. How can this be called a success?

    The proper function of government is to destroy the lives of people in groups I don’t like, after all. I think it’s in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence or Gettysburg Address or something.

  2. says

    This would never fly in the Land of (Step-) Mom and Apple (Flavor) Pie! Just think of all those bad people who are no longer being punished. Next they might try rehabilitating criminals instead of leaving them no option but to return to a life of crime when they finish their sentences!

  3. d cwilson says

    But how will politicians show how tough on crime they are if we start treating drug addiction like a public health problem?

  4. Michael Heath says

    Here’s an AP story regarding a recently published study that will probably and defectively help the Drug War advocates: http://goo.gl/i3fr1 . The lede:

    Teens who routinely smoke marijuana risk a long-term drop in their IQ, a new study suggests.

  5. says

    Goddammit! Where was this article 4-5 days ago when I was in a debate about the possible benefits of legalizing drugs. GRRRR curse you Internets for being late!!!! ;p

  6. MikeMa says

    I’m guessing the cost of rehab is on par or less than the cost of incarceration. Or the cost of lost productivity. Another feature to ignore.

    Public health is a bad subject in tea party, fundie, amerika. Anyone willing to support such a radical, socialist, demonic, muslim, european, liberal idea must be hounded out and shot. And where’s my medicare?

  7. says

    Goddammit! Where was this article 4-5 days ago when I was in a debate about the possible benefits of legalizing drugs.

    It had been there for over a year. Note the article’s date: July 1, 2011.

    In fact, Ed posted about the same article on the old site at the time. (I remembered the post and had to do a quick search to make sure it wasn’t my memory failing me.)

  8. kermit. says

    When the US started Prohibition, alcohol consumption went up. It went down again after Prohibition was repealed, but not to pre-Prohibition levels. During this period, female consumption went up, police were corrupted(1), criminal gangs were well-funded (2), there was wide-spread contempt for the law(3), people could not get medical attention for alcoholism(4), and formerly legal people either became criminals or lost their jobs(5).

    When we finally repealed it, we had a large anti-drug apparatus in place, and we just had to make *some drug illegal, so we criminalized pot and cocaine. Only a few undesirables (6) used those, anyway. These illegal drugs are easier to obtain for many minors than is alcohol(7).

    (1) Police officers had, for years, spent many hours having a cold beer to relax (as they do today). It was difficult to think of that activity as criminal behavior, and made it easy to look the other way on that specific issue, especially if they were bribed with cash greater than their weekly pay.
    (2) Criminal gangs typically make much of their money from victimless crimes. Prostitution, gambling, and illegal drugs do not inherently injure anybody. If they tend to do so in our society, it is largely because of the criminal nature of the process. Compare drug gang violence to liquor stores, hookers in the US compared to hookers in Amsterdam, etc.
    (3) Going to a speakeasy was a common goal for a date. And no ID checks for drinks, either.
    (4) Not that addiction treatments were very effective then, but it was (and is) hard to go to a doctor for help when you have to admit to ongoing federal felonies.
    (5) Barkeepers, winemakers, etc.
    (6) Mexican immigrants, black Americans, and jazz musicians.
    (7) Few people will risk their liquor license to sell a six pack to a minor. But if it’s a felony to sell to anybody, money is money.

  9. dingojack says

    michaeld, TCC – I hear smoking too much dope can affect your memory :)
    I hear smoking too much dope – shit – I did I already say that?
    :D Dingo

  10. says

    Well, much like Universal Healthcare and the Metric System, it obviously can’t work in the USA. American Exceptionalism, you see.

    TCC “It had been there for over a year. Note the article’s date: July 1, 2011. In fact, Ed posted about the same article on the old site at the time. (I remembered the post and had to do a quick search to make sure it wasn’t my memory failing me.)”
    Oooo, well la dee dah! “Hey everybody, look at me! I’ve got a memory and I can use it!”
    We don’t cotton to them high-falutin’ memory accessification ’round these parts.

  11. says

    Well, new news or old news, I’m glad to hear this. It’s exactly what I would have expected. Criminalization only discourages people from getting help by making the need for help a crime, and admitting it into a confession.

    Of course, as others have pointed out, a free populace is bad for the private prisons, which is probably one of the single biggest factors why it’s still a crime.

  12. raven says

    When the US started Prohibition, alcohol consumption went up.

    My family loved Prohibition.

    The old people are dying off and a few family secrets have turned up.

    One of my long dead relatives ran a still during Prohibition. It helped them survive the Great Depression. Alcohol had been legalized by then but you could still make a living selling…hand crafted spirits.

  13. interrobang says

    Teens who routinely smoke marijuana risk a long-term drop in their IQ, a new study suggests.

    It’s a good thing I didn’t start smoking pot until I was well into my 20s, then. ;)

  14. Nepenthe says

    What will the prison industry do for inmates if drugs are decriminalized?

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the newly un-busy prosecutors started going through the obscene backlog of untested rape kits and start sentencing rapists and child molesters to more than a few months, but that’s just me.

  15. D. C. Sessions says

    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.

    So what’s the upside?

  16. iangould says

    A question I’ve been meaning to ask for a while: has the availability of medicinal marijuana (sometimes apparently on rather lax conditions) had ANY negatives affects in those US states that allow it?

  17. martinc says

    In response to “Teens who routinely smoke marijuana risk a long-term drop in their IQ”, interrobang @14 said:

    It’s a good thing I didn’t start smoking pot until I was well into my 20s, then.

    “well into my 20s” … did you mean age or IQ?

  18. says

    I was born in the middle of the “nasty” period in Portugal, when a lot of young people were addicted to heroin, mainly. It was tragic to us all: loosing friends or family members to heroin is a terrible history to have on your memory.
    One of the most effective prevention for the next generation was simply the presence of the previous generation: decadent beggars, small time criminals, dying after 7 to 10 years of heroin usage.
    A notion of danger was created among the younger and heroin is no longer a big thing here. Other drugs have taken its place, and here is where the policy really worked. The decriminalization of usage allowed easier access to marijuana and ecstasy without any contact with the harder drugs traffic mafias. Cocain had its period about 10 years ago and it’s still big, but its effects are a lot easier to deal with in our society.
    To all of you that can only think about US, I can only say that putting anyone who uses drugs in jail is not going to recover them to an healthy life. The so called war on drugs produces only more pain within families and cuts short the chances of any kind of social integration.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply