Thursday, July 19, 2012

Portugal's Successful Drug Decriminalization

Business Insider -- "On July 1st, 2001, Portugal decriminalized every imaginable drug, from marijuana, to cocaine, to heroin. Some thought Lisbon would become a drug tourist haven, others predicted usage rates among youths to surge. Eleven years later, it turns out they were both wrong.

Over a decade has passed since Portugal changed its philosophy from labeling drug users as criminals to labeling them as people affected by a disease. This time lapse has allowed statistics to develop and in time, has made Portugal an example to follow. 

The resulting effect: a drastic reduction in addicts, with Portuguese officials and reports highlighting that this number, at 100,000 before the new policy was enacted, has been halved in the following ten years. Portugal's drug usage rates are now among the lowest of EU member states.

For policymakers or people simply interested in this topic, cases like Portugal are a great place to start."

HT: Kevin DeNardo

12 Comments:

At 7/19/2012 1:51 PM, Blogger juandos said...

From NPR (for what its worth): Mixed Results For Portugal's Great Drug Experiment

(17 minute audio and transcript)

January 20, 2011
When Portugal decriminalized all illegal drugs in 2000, officials hoped to reduce addiction rates and drug-related violence. Today, more users are in rehab, but drug use is on the rise, and reporter Keith O'Brien says the policy has made the problem worse....

 
At 7/19/2012 1:57 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

Hey, if a reporter says something it must be truth. So, next time I hear a reporter claim that trade deficits are burying us or that socialism rocks or that the earth is flat, I will know it's the God's honest truth.

Come on, man. One Peak Nonsense on the blog is bad enough.

 
At 7/19/2012 2:15 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Hey, if a reporter says something it must be truth"...

Hence the reason I inserted, 'for what its worth' methinks...

Don't let the possibility that the substance from the always questionable Business Insider escape your normally skeptical analytical processes..

 
At 7/19/2012 2:16 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Juandos, yes, that's correct, it's treatment, not decriminalization, that reduces drug use.

However, I like the Japanese model better than the Portuguese model:

"The Japanese in 1954...inaugurated a system of forced hospitalization for chronic drug users. Under this policy, drug users were rounded up in droves, forced to go through cold-turkey withdrawal and placed in work camps for periods ranging from a few months to several years.

This approach to drug users, still in force today, is seen by the Japanese as a humane policy focussed primarily on rehabilitation. By American standards, however, these rehabilitation programs would be seen as very tough.

The Japanese from the very beginning have opted for a cold-turkey drug withdrawal. Thus, every heroin addict identified in Japan is required to enter a hospital or treatment facility, where they go immediately through withdrawal.

Conviction through the criminal justice system is not necessary for commitment. Any addict identified, either through examination by physicians or through urine testing, is committed through an administrative process.

As a result courts are not burdened with heavy caseloads of drug users, drug users are not saddled with criminal records and punishment for drug users is swift and sure.

These policies dramatically and rapidly cut drug use. Within four years of the 1954 amendments, the number of people arrested for violating the Stimulant Control Law dropped from 55,654 to only 271in 1958.

Japan began experiencing serious problems with heroin. By 1961 it is estimated that there were over 40,000 heroin addicts in Japan...tougher penalties against importation and selling, and by imposing a mandatory rehabilitation regime for addicts.

The results of Japan's tough heroin program mirrored those of its successful fight against stimulants. The number of arrests for heroin sale and possession fell from a high in 1962 of 2,139 to only 33 in 1966 and have never risen above 100 since."

 
At 7/19/2012 2:17 PM, Blogger givemefreedom said...

The reporter talks about people self reporting on their personal drug use. He said that the percentage went up after decrinimalization.

Well big surprise, do you expect people to more truthful about their drug use when it is illegal or when it is decriminalized?

Bottomline is less people in Portugese prisons on drug charges and more people in drug rehab. How can that be a bad thing?

 
At 7/19/2012 2:21 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Givemefreedom, is it a surprise over 100 million Americans use alcohol, because it's legal?

 
At 7/19/2012 2:24 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

During Prohibition, the number of people drinking alcohol plummeted, but the number attending Mass skyrocketed. Mass was the only legal source of alcohol.

 
At 7/19/2012 4:12 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"During Prohibition, the number of people drinking alcohol plummeted"...

And we know this how jm?

The reason I ask is that when both my maternal and paternal grandparents were alive they used to tell stories...

Both couples by chance moved to Chicago a year so prior to Prohibition (though not together) where my paternal grandparents lived on the near north side and my maternal grandparents were on the southside...

They made it sound like there were a wealth of speakeasies to choose from and all sorts of people where in a continual state of alcholoic stupor most of the time...

How much is sheer hyperbole and how much is fact is anyone's guess...

So I've often wondered just how prohibitive Prohibition really was...

 
At 7/19/2012 5:45 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Sorry, Juandos, what I should have said was "according to statistics, the number of people drinking alcohol plummeted."

 
At 7/19/2012 8:59 PM, Blogger givemefreedom said...

Peaktrader,

Not sure where the connection is between your statement and mine.

What I was referring to was that when the activity is illegal, less people will admit to doing it than when it is decriminalized. So I was questioning the accuracy of the statistics the reporter was quoting since is was self reported drug use before and after decriminalization.

As for 100 million Americans using alcohol, my only response is that 300 million Americans are free to use alcohol if they choose when they are of legal age and to me that that is a good thing.

 
At 7/19/2012 9:55 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Portugal's drug usage rates are now among the lowest of EU member states.

There is a slight problem with this statement. When the incentive is to show that drugs are a big problem that is what you will get. When that incentive is taken away you are more likely to get a realistic picture.

I would expect that the reports would show a decline even if nothing was very different. As support for the statements above just look at how the DEA overestimates the drug problem in the US. Links have been provided previously to show how is done. Honest reporting would show a drop even if things stayed the same.

 
At 7/20/2012 5:43 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"The Japanese in 1954...inaugurated a system of forced hospitalization for chronic drug users..."...

I wanted to get back to you on your comment pt but it took me forever to plow though my bookmarks to find the site I was looking for...

Rehab vs prison?

One would hope that rehab is always the first choice...

Consider the following...

From the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction we have this for Portugal...

 

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