25 August 2015

Decriminalization Works

Portugal's experiment with decriminalizing drugs and taking a purely public health approach to them has been a resounding success which Ireland is now strongly considering emulating.
Fourteen years ago, fed up with the losing fight against overdose deaths and the rising prevalence of HIV/AIDS, Portugal embarked on a bold experiment by decriminalizing all drugs and taking a public health approach to illegal drug use. It now has the second-lowest number of drug-induced deaths in all of Europe and has seen a steady decrease in the number of newly diagnosed HIV and AIDS patients.

One tangible outcome [Irish drug czar] Ó Ríordáin would like to see is the introduction of “consumption rooms” staffed with public health workers, where intravenous drug users can safely use drugs such as heroin and access clean needles. Portugal first established a consumption room in a facility near a health center and a police department in Lisbon in 2014.

Ireland . . . sent . . . [a delegation] to Lisbon in June to learn more , . . [It found] a dramatic drop in the number of HIV/AIDS cases, a decrease in drug-related crime, and no increase in drug use. Predictions that Portugal would become a destination for drug tourists . . . haven’t come true.
Another great success has been the decriminalization of assisted suicide, in Switzerland since 1942, and also by the Dutch. Regarding the Swiss experience (emphasis added):
A) From 1995 to 2009, assisted suicide cases have grown but the total number of suicides keeps constant.
B) Assisted suicide in 2009 accounted for approx 30% of all suicides.
C) Women chose assisted suicide more than men, but men use firearms more than women to commit suicide.
D) Peak assisted suicide is between 75 and 84 years old. It seems that people that cross the 80+ years old line are not affected by painful or exhausting diseases thus they choose to life until it ends naturally.
E) Peak suicide is between 45-54 years old, midlife crisis is real.
F) Overall suicide rates for women kept constant even if assisted suicide rates increase.
G) Overall suicide rates for men are going down and assisted suicide goes up.
I wouldn't have necessarily expected this result on assisted suicide, but it is encouraging.

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