An article on the claimed benefits from drug legalization in Portugal

It isn't really clear to me why decriminalizing drugs should reduce the rate that they are used. Infections and some other problems (e.g., overdoses) declining are quite plausible, but overall drug use declining as prices effectively fall are not so plausible. Here is an article that claims drug use fell dramatically after it was legalized.

Ten years ago, Portugal had some 100,000 heroin addicts -- about 1 percent of its entire population. HIV infections from injecting drugs were among the highest in Europe.

Now the addict count has been cut nearly in half. HIV infections from drug use have fallen more than 90 percent. And the policy shift responsible for such a dramatic improvement in Portuguese life is something U.S. lawmakers -- watching an escalating drug war on their southern border -- might consider worthy of some attention: decriminalization.

Ten years ago this summer, Portugal became the first country in Europe to decriminalize all illegal drugs -- marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and even heroin. Hefty fines and prison sentences still await drug traffickers and dealers, but users caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug are no longer considered criminals. Instead, they're referred to a panel comprised of a drug-treatment specialist, a lawyer and a civil servant, who usually recommend treatment -- and pay for it, too. If the users decline treatment and go back to abusing drugs, that's their prerogative.

But statistics show they're not doing that. Instead, about 45 percent of the 100,000 heroin addicts Portugal's Health Ministry recorded in 2000 had by 2008 decided to at least try to quit the habit, without the threat of jail time. And the number of new HIV cases among users fell from 2,508 in the year 2000 to 220 cases in 2008, Alun Jones, a spokesman for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told AOL News. "This was a major success," he said. . . .

I am also not sure how legalizing drugs in Mexico would stop the drug cartels because the cartels are formed to get drugs into the US. Now legalizing drugs in the US would have a big impact, but that is not what is being advocated here.

Last week, former Mexican President Vicente Fox criticized his country's military-led, U.S.-backed war on drugs, which has left more than 28,000 people dead since December 2006. Instead, Fox said Mexico should consider legalizing the production, distribution and sale of drugs. . . .



Blogger Sevesteen said...

It seems to me that if Mexico legalized drugs, it would at least shift the major problems away from Mexico--If it is legal, there is nothing to fight over, and no crimes committed until you get to the US border.

8/16/2010 12:06 AM  
Blogger Al B. said...

Perhaps, eliminating the risk of prosecution significantly reduces the opportunity cost of getting help overcoming addiction.

8/16/2010 3:23 PM  
Blogger Raven Lunatic said...

Well, if your addicts fear jail (on top of withdrawls) more than they fear the long term repercussions of shooting up with a substance that makes them feel really good, those who're addicted Stay addicted. By taking away the risk of asking for help (well, that beyond the risk and unpleasantness inherent to kicking an addiction), you enable those who want to quit to do so.

As it is, even fear of AIDS is less than fear of jail time, as evidenced by intelligent, informed addicts not risking exchanging needles at hospitals, nor carrying their own, clean needles with them.

Further, if they don't have to keep their addiction secret, there will be more clean people able to put pressure on them to quit, and they can help (interventions?) before the addiction gets as strong a hold on them.

8/16/2010 5:51 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home