The decriminalisation of drugs has been a hot topic for some time now. Whilst some are of the opinion that doing so will reduce crime, addiction rates and overdoses, others are concerned that by legalising drugs, it’s almost promoting their use.
One country that took the step of decriminalising these substances an incredible 14 years ago, is Portugal. In 2001 it was announced that the country will treat possession and the use of small quantities as a public health issue rather than a criminal one. Whilst drugs themselves remain illegal, getting caught with them simply means a small fine and possibly a referral to a treatment programme rather than jail time and a criminal record.
The outcome of this action has been incredible and somewhat surprising. Amongst Portuguese adults, there are just three lethal overdoses per every one million citizens. In other EU countries these numbers are much higher with the Netherlands reporting 10.2 overdose deaths in every one million, 44.6 in the UK and a shocking 126.8 in Estonia.
The latest drug concern for many countries is Legal highs. They are quickly gaining momentum across the world but Portugal seems to be unaffected by the problem. The country reports lower use of legal highs than any of the other countries for which reliable data exists. In places where drugs are illegal, more and more people are turning to these ‘designer drugs’ which are currently legal but have terrible and sometimes deadly side effects.
In an analysis of Portugal’s drug laws, the Transform Drug Policy Institute commented:
“The reality is that Portugal’s drug situation has improved significantly in several key areas. Most notably, HIV infections and drug-related deaths have decreased, while the dramatic rise in use feared by some has failed to materialise.”
If you think that you or someone you know may have a problem with drugs, please feel free to visit our Drug Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation page for more information. You can also contact us today for help.