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Portugal and the war on drugs

  1. Mar 1, 2015 #1
    In the city I live it was just reported that in 2014 there were more heroin overdoses than traffic deaths. I have a family member addicted to heroin and it's a nightmare for the family. The US needs a radical change. Portugal could be the case study to look at.

    In 2001 Portugal decriminalized drugs and shifted funds into the health departments. Now they are the talk of the town showing off charts of their success.

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2015 #2


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    Pretty interesting study.
  4. Mar 2, 2015 #3
    Interesting article, however:
    -they haven't shown data before decriminalization (what were already the trends);
    -it seems for me that lower death rate as quite possible outcome, but not lower one time in the life usage (so seems that other key factors in this article are missing).
  5. Mar 2, 2015 #4


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    They did imply that before the 1974 revolution, that they didn't have a drug problem.

    From Greg's article: "The newfound freedom led to a raucous attitude of experimentalism toward politics and economy and, as it turned out, hard drugs."

    The "as it turned out" article is also interesting:

    But this reminds me of a recent debate here at PF, and a note from Greg's article:

    "...It also expanded the welfare system in the form of a guaranteed minimum income. "

    I find the notion of "guaranteed minimum income" an interesting topic, so it got me thinking, "How much are we paying to incarcerate druggies?"

    Huffpo wrote an article about it:

    The Drug War And Mass Incarceration By The Numbers :04/08/2013

    Not to bore you with the article, I collected the numbers:

    Code (Text):

    people in prison         2,200,000
    % of druggies                  50%
    total cost/year    $51,000,000,000
    # of druggies            1,100,000
    $/druggie/year             $46,364
    $46,364 is quite a bit more than my guaranteed minimum income, which I receive for sitting on my butt, drinking beer, and posting stuff on PF.

    Of course, like Portugal, it's an experiment, which may, or may not work. But I'm always up for a good experiment. (hic!)

    ps. I once had an idea of how to solve the world's overpopulation problem. Just pay everyone 9 months of wages for every child a couple had sterilized!
    But then I thought about it for a few seconds, and decided that people might have babies, just for the money, which would really screw up the world.
    Based on the "Clown Car" ladies productivity rate, the Earth's population would be about 66 billion in 20 years.
    A bit of an overload, IMHO. So I dismissed my idea, as foolishness.
  6. May 8, 2015 #5
    I'm from Portugal and a fun fact is that most people here don't know consuming drugs was de-legalized, they are sure you can atleast get fined in the possession of light drugs, and go to jail in possession of hard drugs. The police surely knows about it, but if they find you with pot, they take the pot away from you anyway. Maybe there was a sort of coverup when this was passed, so maybe the media didn't even speak about it, I honestly don't remember.
  7. May 8, 2015 #6


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    I think the uptick in heroin overdoses and deaths resulting from overdoses has to do with the availability of cheap heroin more than anything else. Heroin used to be one of the most expensive street drugs; now it's one of the cheapest.

    Almost all heroin used to be produced from poppy plants grown in central Asia, and the high price was due in part to having to smuggle the drug from those places to the west. Now, countries like Mexico are major producers of heroin and are located much closer to their markets, reducing the risk that a smuggled shipment of the drug may be seized.

    Afghanistan used to produce the lion's share of the world's heroin by far; now Mexico is a strong No. 2 producer and is gaining on Afghanistan.


    So, is Portugal saving money by not spending it on incarcerating drug users? Or are they spending the money which was used for incarceration instead on treating drug users for the health problems associated with long-term drug use?
  8. May 8, 2015 #7
    I'm portuguese. We put junkies in rehab basically. It's better than sending them to prison where there are still drugs around, does not solve the problem, costs more money arrow-10x10.png , and when the sentence is over, they are back into society with the same problems, maybe even in worse conditions.

    We have decriminalized consumption but not the selling of drugs, so there is still a big black market which imho is really bad.

    I just wish we could legalize the good drugs and tax them for the economic boom we are needing but most of our elderly population, which makes up for most of the country's, rather prefers to drink alchool and morally condemn those who smoke weed or whatever, out of ignorance imo.

    About heroin consumption, we had some local outbursts in very specific areas, namely Casal Ventoso and in some other areas in the major cities.

    Police raids, shutting down of streets, reallocation of people seems to have tuned down the problem.

    Also as a side note, if people have access to good drugs I find it hard to believe that they'll want to use the less good stuff, I think. Forbidding never worked for anyone I guess. If you/me/anyone wants something that is socially condemned, as soon as the other turns the back we'll go for it, right?
    Last edited: May 8, 2015
  9. May 8, 2015 #8


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    Presumably, the guaranteed minimum income wouldn't just be paid to people released from jail.
  10. May 9, 2015 #9


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    I was just sharing a thought. I'd rather $46k be spent elsewhere. For instance, a former crack head lives down the street from me in an adult home facility, and has decided that I'm his new best friend. He's been visiting with me in my front yard every few days for about 3 weeks now. He says his rent is $600/month. All I see him do is go to the store in his wheelchair, and buy cigarettes and beer. He always borrows money from me near the end of the month, and rolls his own cigarettes, so I'd imagine his income isn't much over $800/month. So it would appear that it's costing us around $10k for him. Which is a $36k/year savings.
    I can understand why his family won't have anything to do with him, as he can be quite obnoxious. He drinks 75 ounces of 8.1% beer every day.

    It also looks like I got my numbers wrong.
    From a Prisoners in 2011 report, USDOJ
    The Federal incarceration rate for drugs is 48%, implying 104,000. (pages 1 & 2)
    The total for State incarceration is 237,000. (page 9)
    For a total of 341,000

    hmmm... This is getting complicated.
    Let's just scratch all my old numbers, and start over.

    $10.6 billion to incarcerate 341,000 (@$31k/year average. Various sources.)
    $25.6 billion for the Federal budget on the drug war in 2013
    $36.2 billion total

    $36.2g/341k = $106,000 per drug related incarceration.

    hmmm.... That's even worse!

    It makes sense to me that they would try and keep it quite. Where I live, we have a very relaxed attitude about marijuana, and it does seem to attract people from different locations, where the atmosphere is not so relaxed. (ie. Going to jail!) About half of the states have what is known as "Initiative" voting, where regular people can put something up for a vote, and the general population can decide whether or not it's a good idea. Last year, the people of my state, voted to legalize marijuana. It takes effect in about 2 months. I doubt much will change. My friends have been trying to get me to smoke it for the last 40 years!

    The people of Portugal sound very much like those here in America.
    Thank you, for your comments.
    I agree with you that people who drink alcohol have no moral ground to criticize pot smokers.
    Actually, I agree with everything you've said.

    Please keep us updated on how the experiment is going. And you too, Tosh5457. Although I value everyone's opinion*, it's much better to get an opinion from someone in the midst of what is going on.

    * Ok. That was a complete and utter lie. Some people's opinions are just plain stupid. But I promised not to gossip about my sister this year, so I'll just shut up. :devil:
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