- Sex & Drugs
- 15 May 18
Drug overdose deaths in Portugal have been reduced from 300 to 23 a year since they made it a health issue rather than a criminal justice one.
Stuart Clark appeared on Pat Kenny’s Newstalk 106-108 show this morning to kickstart Hot Press' campaign for Ireland to adopt the same drug decriminalisation model as Portugal where since 2001 annual overdose deaths have fallen from 300 a year to just 23. Currently in Ireland, a country half the size, we average a death a day.
Stuart also highlighted the fact that problem drug use in the same period has halved from 100,000 to 50,000 people, and that new HIV cases in Portugal where intravenous drug use is a factor has dropped from 60% to 6%.
Instead of being sent to court, people caught in possession of drugs for their personal use have to appear before a Dissuasion Committee typically made up of a psychologist, social worker and lawyer.
They help tease out whether it’s recreational drug use or something more problematic that can be rooted in family problems, homelessness, unemployment, depression, immigration difficulties or trouble at work or school.
If it’s the latter, people are referred to the relevant services. Thirteen different government ministries and the police have come together to ensure that the decriminalisation policy is as joined up as possible.
With only 13% of people seeing the Dissuasion Committee more than once, the model seems to be working extremely well.
Stuart, who spent a week in Portugal examining the drug laws there, will be reporting on his trip in the next issue of Hot Press, out on Thursday May 24.
Over the course of the summer, Hot Press will be joining forces with the Ana Liffey Drug Project and the London School of Economics to stage a series of Drug Policy Town Hall meetings, which kick off on June 12 at the Wood Quay Venue in Dublin. We’ll have details of how to obtain tickets shortly.