Headline September 30, 2017/ ''' *DEATHS OF DESPAIR* : DRUGS '''


*FOR !WOW!........

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PORTUGAL INITIALLY was scolded around the world for its experiment, as a weak link in the war on drugs, but today it's hailed as a model.

The World Health Organization and American Public Health Association have both praised decriminalization and a public health focus, as has a Global Commission on Drug Policy.

One attraction of the Portuguese approach is that it's incomparably cheaper to treat people people than to jail them. The Health Ministry spends less that $10 per citizen per year on its successful drug policy.

Meanwhile the U.S. has spent some $10,000  per household...... [more than $1 trillion] over the decades on a failed drug policy that results in more than 1,000 deaths each week.

Wonder, what are the developing world's economics and costs  : Pakistan, India,  Bhutan, Siri Lanka, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Myanmar, ?  

''There are few customers now,'' complained one heroin dealer in the gritty Lamiar neighborhood. Another, Joaquim Farinha, 55 was skeptical that methadone was costing him much business.

''Business is still pretty good,'' he said, interrupting the interview to make a sale to a middle-aged woman.

{Portugal's drug market is relatively nonviolent and relaxed partly because of another factor : Handguns are tightly controlled}.

On balance, the evidence is that drug use stabilized or declined since Portugal changed approaches, particularly for heroin. 

In polls, the proportion of  15- to -24-year olds who say that they have used illicit drugs in the last month dropped by almost half since decriminalization.

Decriminalization also made it easier to fight infectious diseases and treat overdoses. In the U.S., people are sometimes reluctant to call 911 after a friend overdoses for fear of an arrest; that's not a risk in Portugal.

In 1999,  Portugal had the highest rate of drug related AIDS in the European Union; since then, H.I.V, diagnoses attributed to injections have fallen by more than 90 percent and Portugal is no longer at the high end in Europe.

One crucial mistake that Portugal did not make was to follow the united States in adopting prescriptions opioid painkillers for routine use. Adalberto Campos Fernandes, the health minister, said the Portuguese doctors resisted overprescribing and that regulators also stood in the way.

Another factor that has benefited Portugal : The economy has grown and there is a robust social fabric and safety net, so fewer people self-medicate with drug.

Anne Case and Angus Deaton of Princeton University have chronicled the rise of ''deaths of despair'' and argue that opioid use in American in part reflects a long term-term decline in well-paying jobs for those with a high-school education or less.

I've been apprehensive of decriminalizing hard drugs for fear of increasing addiction. 

Portugal changed my mind, and its policy seems fundamentally humane and lifesaving. Yet let's also be realistic about what's possible :

Portugal's approach works better than America's, but nothing succeeds as well as we might hope.

The hilly Casal Ventoso neighborhood was ground zero for heroin in Lisbon 15 years ago,  ''a wall of death,'' remembered  Paulo Brito, 55, who has been using heroin since he was 15.

Brito weaned himself off drugs with the help of health workers and remained ''clean'' for 10 years  -but relapsed a year ago, and I met him in today's  Casal Ventoso.

There are fewer overdoses now, but it is still littered with hypodermic packages and other detritus of narcotics, as well as a pall of sadness.

''I've hit rock bottom,'' Britto told me despairingly, ''I am losing the person I most love in the world.''

His girlfriend, Teresa, is begging him to give up heroin. He wants to choose her; he fervently wants to quit. But he doesn't know if he can, and he teared up as he said:

''It's like entering boxing ring and facing Mike Tyson.''

Yet for all his suffering, Brito lives, because he's Portuguese. 

The lesson that Portugal offers the world is that while we can't eradicate Heroin, it's possible to save the life of heroin/drug users-

If we're willing to treat them not as criminals but as sick, suffering human beings who need helping hands, not handcuffs.

With respectful dedication to the Leaders, Parents, Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and Twitter-!E-WOW!  -the Ecosystem 2011:

''' Win on Wars '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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