War on Drugs in Portugal is making progress despite their non-conventional approach

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War on Drugs in Portugal is making progress despite their non-conventional approach

War on drugs in Portugal is progressive, unlike in Kenya and many other countries as revealed in latest research report. Portugal treats drug abuse like any other disease. It’s not a criminal offence to do drugs in Portugal. How will that work here in Kenya? You are caught with hard drugs such as cocaine or heroin and the police take you to the hospital instead of the police cells.

In Portugal, the drug users are given clean hypodermics as a precaution to ensure they do not contract or spread HIV/AIDs as they are encouraged to stop abusing drugs.

Portugal is one of the countries alongside the United States which are suffering from illegal drugs abuse. The two countries have approached the issue of drugs in two completely different ways.

Portugal has treated drug use as a disease while USA has made it a criminal offense to be found using, trading or in possession of drugs. The latter is the case in Kenya. In fact if you are found with drugs, your place is in prisons. Remember, the United States goes an extra mile to extradited drug peddlers who have escaped to other countries. For example, the Akashas were arrested here in Kenya and extradited to the United States to face charges of drug trafficking. That is a story of another day.

On the other hand, Portugal took a different route. It all started as an experiment. Using drugs is not a criminal offense. How about that? This has been the status for 16 years now, since 2001. People consume even hard stuff such as heroin and cocaine but they are never incarcerated. The government of Portugal instead has focused on an extensive public health campaign to help people who are addicted to drug abuse.

That is how drug addiction found its way to the hospitals instead of the prisons.  It’s now important for us to compare the results with countries where drug addiction is treated as a crime. After all, it has been one and half decades down the line.

The US has failed terribly with her drug policy. Many American citizens have died of drug overdoses. Analysts have found out that the number of deaths as a result of drug abuse is equivalent to the number of Americans who died during the Afghanistan, Vietnam and Iraq wars combined, 64,000.

Portugal on the other hand is enjoying success as a result of deploying great strategies in its war on drug addiction. The country’s health Ministry has estimated that only 25,000 people use heroin which is a substantial reduction from 100,000 when Portugal started implementing the policy.

The number of Portuguese dying from overdoses plunged more than 85 per cent, it only rose slightly during economic crisis in Europe. In fact, to drive the point home, Portugal has the lowest mortality rate in the entire Western Europe.

War on drugs in Portugal is not only effective but also compassionate. This sounds like a miracle but it has worked perfectly. If USA adopts this approach, experts say that she will save one life every 10 minutes. That is like saving all the lives lost to car accidents and guns combined.

War on drugs is a very important issue to us, because we have friends and other people close to us who are unable to get out of drug addiction. Their lives have been ruined by over-consumption of alcohol or overdose of other hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana. The latter is used for medical reasons sometimes.

This medical approach should be adopted in other countries such as in Kenya to see whether it works. After all we’ve nothing to lose since what we have has failed terribly.

Instead of Kenyan legislators flying to Democratic Republic of Congo to bench mark with their stadium or to Brazil to watch athletics while those participating are living in informal settlements, the health committee should book the next flight to Lisbon and come back with strategies that will work for our drug addicted youth and other young adults.

In fact treatment for drug addiction is available in Kenya but it’s damn expensive and the average Kenyan can’t afford. There are private actors who have capitalized on this matter and created rehabs which cost astronomical figures.

Our government of Kenya should think of coming up with a standard treatment for all who want help from the deep abyss of drug abuse. In fact, drug addicts go to an extent of stealing in order to get resources for daily doses of their favorite drugs.

Users of heroin spend up to USD$ 100 every day. How can one support this expensive lifestyle? Otherwise, it leads to committing crime to get the money to sustain the lifestyle.

War on drugs in Portugal was adopted under the socialist Prime Minister Antonio Guterres who is the current Secretary General for the United Nations.  The policy was a brainchild of Joao Castel-Branco Goulao who is a public health expert.

As you plan to adopt this “Portuguese Model” that there are some things they did and never did. The county never changed the laws on drug trafficking, if you are caught with drugs you still end up in the prisons. What they allowed is small quantities of drugs such a supply for 10 days. Being found with such small quantities is not a crime but just an administrative offense like failing to pay for traffic parking.

At first, this experiment was not well received by other countries around the world. Many countries thought this was a mistake in the global war against drugs. Today, it’s different everyone is looking up to Portugal for a model that works. This is a method that has received praises from Global Commission on Drug Policy; American Health Association and World Health Organization (WHO).

What many governments do not realize is that it’s actually cheaper to treat drug addicts than handing them jail terms.

Let’s learn to treat drug addicts as patients and not as criminals. That way, we will win the war against drugs. These are sick human beings who are suffering and they need our help not handcuffs or dark dungeons.

War on drugs in Portugal has taught us that we should use a different approach. We urge you all to call, write, or speak to your elected leaders and policy makers asking them to adopt this new approach. Also, tell us in the comments section below whether you found this approach effective.

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Editor-in-Chief

Geoffrey Kerosi is a prolific Kenyan writer based in Nairobi City. Email: info@kerosi.com. Skype: gkerosi Whatsapp: +254713 639 776 YouTube: Kerosi TV

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