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Portugal decriminalized drugs 14 years ago - and now hardly anyone dies from an overdose


(NaturalNews) In 2001, the government of Portugal made a bold move and decriminalized every kind of street drug, from cannabis to cocaine, to heroin and anything in between. Physiological addictions and psychological attachments to drugs and their highs are no longer treated as criminal offenses in Portugal. Portugal's society has shifted their approach in how they deal with drug issues.

For over a decade now, the country has been treating drug possession and abuse as a public health issue, not a reason to just lock people up. This has allowed their society to deal with the more serious drug addictions instead of wasting time, money and resources trying to catch people using harmless cannabis.

When Portugal implemented the new policy, they showed respect for personal freedom and responsibility. For far too long, governments have operated under the belief that more laws can protect people from themselves by making it a crime to use certain drugs and plants. As more people were burdened with criminal records, they could not find work, and this just perpetuated a cycle of government and drug dependence.

Now, in Portugal there are no criminal records haunting drug users. There are more opportunities to get help, if people need it. Now, anyone who gets caught possessing street drugs must pay a small fine, but more importantly they are referred to a treatment program.

Drug overdose deaths reach all time low in Portugal, as more people get help for addictions

Instead of being locked up, people with drug problems in Portugal are getting more help than ever before. Drug users are more willing to seek professional help for their addictions because they do not fear being put behind bars. This is having a positive impact on the population as a whole, as fewer people in the country are overdosing than ever before.

Decriminalizing drugs saves lives and allows families and community support groups to help loved ones struggling with drug addictions. Today there are only three drug overdose deaths per one million Portuguese citizens. Portugal leads the way in protecting the lives of those with drug problems. In contrast, countries that make drug abusers into criminals have much higher rates of drug overdose deaths. A country like Denmark has about 60 drug overdose deaths per one million citizens, which is a death rate twenty times greater than that of Portugal.

As the numbers show, strict drug laws don't necessarily fix the problem of drug abuse and overdose deaths. In the UK, where drug laws are stiff, there are 44.6 drug overdose deaths per one million. Similarly, in Estonia there are 126.8 deaths per million citizens.

Dangerous, synthetic street drugs becoming less popular under Portugal's decriminalization policies

Portugal's decriminalization approach also prevents many people from using synthetic street drugs that they experiment with to get around the strict laws on things like cannabis. These nasty drug variants, such as "synthetic marijuana," have unhealthy, life-threatening consequences. "Bath salts" and "synthetic marijuana" are now rarely heard of in Portugal, because more people can access the harmless THC high of cannabis without fear. Other countries that criminalize cannabis actually have more problems with these nasty, synthetic street drugs. It's obvious why synthetic highs are losing popularity in Portugal.

When Portugal made the bold move of decriminalization, critics balked, believing that lenient policies would lead more people to drug abuse. The critics have been proven wrong. As the Transform Drug Policy Institute noted after analyzing Portugal's drug laws: "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."

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