By Jamie Busby - Staff Author
The "War on Drugs" as it's known was unofficially declared in 1971 by then President of America Richard Nixon. He proclaimed drug use as being "Public Enemy Number One" and this phony war goes on to this day. The war was to be allegedly fought by preventing the creation of new addicts and rehabilitating those already in the clutches of drugs.
2 years prior to this, Nixon had stated that the modus operandi of the war on drugs would be "eradication, interdiction, and incarceration." In other words, they were saying they were going to actually get rid of drugs by means of prohibition and ending trafficking. And finally, they were going to lock up everyone they caught involved with drugs. This meant even users were to be considered criminals.
This whole idealistic plan was a joke from the start and still is. Why? Because it's completely futile. The "War on Drugs" has been an abject failure, if not a catastrophe, making the situation worse. And this doesn't apply just to America, this has been the method of dealing with drug problems pretty much the world over for decades.
Look at the effects of alcohol prohibition in America from 1920 to 1933; an unmitigated disaster. It simply bred more criminals, some of the most notorious in American history. It's been proven many times that if you make something illegal, you not only make criminals of everyone involved but simply drive the whole thing underground. Hidden, unregulated worlds run by gangsters who have shocking customer care policies...
Portugal's Bright Idea
In 2001, Portugal decriminalised all illegal drugs, everything. Heroine, crack, cocaine, the lot. They knew that to achieve big results they had to make big changes. The traditional method of the War on Drugs doesn't work and never will. The reason why it continues across the world is because there's so much corruption that governments such as that of America are knee-deep in the shit they claim they're fighting against, but that's another story.
Back to Portugal, prior to 2001 the country was suffering from a heroin epidemic that affected 1% of the population. That's an incredibly high percentage! Overdoses and HIV were rife, the drug scene had developed a life of it's own and all seemed lost. However, by 2012, Portugal recorded only 16 drug-related overdose deaths in the whole year. This in a country of over 10 million people where previously a startling 100,000 people were heroin addicts.
Compare these figures to that of the country leading the War on Drugs, America. In 2017, there were 72,000 deaths due to heroin overdose out of a population of 325 million. A quick bit of mental arithmetic tells me that this is a fucking CRAZY figure, equivalent to 200 deaths a DAY. A bigger killer than gun crime, car accidents and AIDS. The War on Drugs huh?... My arse.
Back to Portugal again, the man with the plan was a certain Dr. Joao Goulao, head of the nation's "Service for Intervention in Addictive Behaviour and Dependencies". He admits that it's not as simple as the decriminalisation of ALL drugs but that this must be the first step, combined with other measures, if the plan is to be successful.
Portugal's Full Treatment Package
In a nutshell, the most important part of Portugal's method are SUPPORT SYSTEMS for addicts and people with drug problems. Decriminalisation is just the start and a great start at that, not making criminals out of users and thus not punishing those who merely take drugs. Because punishment for drug use doesn't seem to work; AT ALL. Going back to our usual reference point of America, in 2016 there were approximately 2.3 million people in US jails. At 716 people per 100,000 of the population, that's the highest incarceration rate in the WORLD.
Drug offences make up almost 50% of those in American prisons. There are over 1 million arrests and convictions for simple drug possession each year, 4 times higher than the figures for the arrest of actual drug dealers; from a petty street weed dealer all the way up to the likes of El Chapo.
*I would apologise for constantly using America as a yardstick but they did start this shit after all... Their abject failure is perfect as a comparison and shows exactly how to fuck it all up, almost like they've done it on purpose...
In Portugal, the model they work to is treatment and rehabilitation. But at the core of this, possibly the most important change being their attitude, is seeing drug abuse as a legitimate health problem and NOT a crime. Drug dealing and trafficking are still crimes, nothing has changed in that regard and rightly so. But users are treated like patients with a DISEASE, which is exactly what they are; Victims of addiction as a result of a variety of issues.
Read an earlier article by myself if you'd like to see the point of view of an insider. ME!
In Portugal, users are not imprisoned and don't even end up with a criminal record as no crime is considered to have taken place. What DOES happen is you get to see medical professionals who assess you and your drug habits. For those with major problems, you can be placed in a specialist treatment facility.
Those lower on the scale will be helped with any issues they may be having with life in general and supported while they work through them. This could be mental health or social and economic issues. Support is there to stop the rot, so to speak, and prevent anyone slipping further into even more serious addiction. It's basically intervention at the earliest point possible and it works.
You may be thinking "This all sounds a bit soft"! But think about the way other countries are going about this, convicting and locking everyone up. Or in some places, killing them. Is that working?
Another crucial part of the Portuguese system is to change cultural ideas surrounding drugs and their use. They have successfully destigmatised drug addiction to the point where people are not ashamed to seek out the vast amount of help available. Dr. Goulao explains it like this;
"The big impact is that drug use and drug addiction is no longer a taboo. We can talk openly about it... the way society started to look at this problem, is mostly as a health issue, like diabetes or other chronic relapsing diseases... Addiction is a health and a social issue."
Drug addicts are treated with the same dignity and respect as someone with diabetes, for example. The cultural transformation has been astonishingly fast and progressive in equal measure. The people of Portugal have bought into this concept and I think I know why; because they can see it works simply by the results. 90% of the tax-payers money that was previously used for Portugal's standard "War on Drugs" now goes towards treatment and support networks instead of fighting crime.
Another part of the treatment of those affected is called "Outreach and Engagement". Small teams of people basically reach out to those living on the streets or in abandoned areas of cities. They provide drug paraphernalia such as tin foil, clean needles and any other necessities they may need to keep them safe. This is a direct link for addicts who are effectively homeless to the state health system; they simply come to you as opposed to you going to them.
The Way Forward
I think you will agree that Portugal is blazing a trail in the treatment of drug abuse. No longer a taboo criminal act, drug use is now seen as the health problem it actually is. Yet in America people are locked up for extended periods all for possessing relatively small amounts of cannabis for personal use. Privatised prisons, ran as businesses, they wouldn't be in on this scam would they?... Them and the government are surely not so malicious?...
Then we have other crime figures. Out of all the crimes perpetrated such as burglary, robbery, car theft,etc... How much of it is committed in order to pay for a drug habit? I'm not up to date with the official figures but I would hazard an educated guess at the answer being the VAST MAJORITY (it is indeed over 50%). You may have experienced being offered "dodgy goods", the results of some sort of theft. Any money spent in this black market inevitably ends up in a drug dealer's pocket.
Further up the food chain we have all the gang problems, gun-violence and all. Gangs controlling local drug dealing and wholesale drug trafficking all over the world have pretty much everywhere covered, from the mean streets of Chicago to any random village in England. There is so much money at stake that it results in constant turf wars, which results in constant murders; it's a never ending spiral. Then we have Mexico and the immensely powerful crime Cartels that supply drugs to America and the rest of the world. These are multi-billion dollar organisations and they have demonstrated a level of brutality that's never been seen before in organised crime.
ALL THIS BECAUSE DRUGS ARE ILLEGAL!
I can't see any downsides to Portugal's model, so why isn't it being implemented everywhere I wonder?!? Hmmm... We could find ourselves deep down the rabbit hole with this one. But after around 50 years of spending TRILLIONS on a Drug War that is clearly only making everything worse, why are the "powers-that-be" not changing things up? The definition of madness is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results.
But NO, they're not mad. Or stupid. There are many reasons why other countries have not took on the Portuguese way, one of those being cultural issues. Many people want nothing to do with "junkies" or any type of drug use, they just want them all locked up, out of sight and out of mind. But there's more to it than that. After all, since when has a government cared what the people thought? Drugs and War are two of the most profitable enterprises in the world. The "War on Drugs" shouldn't be about turning a profit, but I think we all know that many are...
And this is the point where I have to mention the Deep State, the profiteers of all that's wrong with this world. They're involved here somewhere, blocking any attempts of others who even consider going the way of Portugal. It clearly wouldn't be good for business. From the 1980's American crack epidemic, a direct result of the CIA-run Iran-Contra affair to the current CIA control of Afghani heroin poppy fields, they're up to their elbows in some jumbo sized pies (full of drugs). They make Pablo Escobar and Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman look like amateurs in this game.
Unfortunately for the global elite puppet masters, a country managed to break free from their grip and show everyone else a way to not only help, but create massive improvements. The results speak for themselves. So this success must be oppressed... If the Portuguese way caught on and became a worldwide trend, they'd be fucked.
I can only offer a huge "well done" to Portugal and hope that they can continue to go from strength to strength, despite rumours of a potential loss of government financial backing. That would be a tragedy. I also hope that the trail they have blazed will be copied by the likes of America and us here in the UK.
I wouldn't hold my breath on that but yet again, we're at a point where we as the people have to FORCE things to happen nowadays. Asking and saying please is no good, we must smash their doors down if we want to even dream of bringing about change. But that should never stop us trying.
What Portugal has done has been revolutionary and the knock-on effects across the whole of their society cannot be discounted. Their extremely brave, bold and clever "War on Drugs" has given us all the new blueprint.
Contact me by email: [email protected]
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