Welcome to my blog, where I talk about things. Like Portugal and drugs.
I've never been to Portugal, and I don't pretend to know a lot about Portugal. But wanna know something pretty cool about Portugal? They decriminalized all drugs -- you heard me, ALL drugs -- in 2001. Illegal drugs are still illegal. But if you get caught with drugs (10 days worth or less, whatever that means) you don't get thrown in jail. You don't even get a fine. Know what you do get? Free addiction counselling.
That's right. In Portugal, they treat drug abuse as a public health issue, not a moral one. And wanna know what? In Portugal, only about 3 in a million adults die of a drug overdose. Meanwhile, in Canada, we lose about 60 people per month to drugs. Mostly prescription opioids. Possession of heroin will get you 6 months and $1,000 fine for a first offence; 7 YEARS and a $2,000 fine for subsequent offences. Trafficking heroin will get you a life sentence.
Someone very close to me has been a heroin addict for over 12 years. He's also injected Fentanyl, the much-balleyhooed drug that probably killed Prince. In a couple week's time, my friend will be seeking treatment.
I asked him if potential jail time ever deterred him from wanting to buy drugs. He said that if the prospect of losing friends, family, and life didn't stop him, jail time was certainly below consideration.
I know, I know, my sample size is small here, and definitely not peer reviewed. So take it for what you will.
What I really want to talk about is how we treat addicts. My friend is a "functioning" addict. Meaning he works hard, supports himself, and pays his bills (barely), all while maintaining what at one time was a $300/day habit. Now, in preparation for detox, he's on a fairly low dose of methadone, which costs him around $10 per day. People can't tell he's an addict just by looking at him. Plus, he's a cisgender white dude, which is helpful in every situation, it seems.
My point is that he is the "best" kind of addict. He's not a "burden" on society. And he still gets treated like utter garbage. He's looked down on and automatically mistrusted. He's viewed as someone who has created his own problem and deserves to suffer.
Listen, if I learned anything from Psych 100, it's that correlation doesn't equal causation. A major drop in death by overdose and rate of HIV infection in Portugal isn't solely due to drug decriminalization. But it's pretty compelling.
At this point, we all know that addiction transcends race, gender, and socio-economic status. It is not a moral issue, and we need to stop treating it that way.