Why hardly anyone dies from a drug overdose in Portugal
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post
Posted: June 15th, 2015
Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it -- Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. Whenever we debate similar measures in the U.S. - marijuana decriminalization, for instance - many drug-policy makers predict dire consequences. But in Portugal, the ... prevalence of past-year and past-month drug use among young adults has fallen since 2001. Overall adult use is down slightly too. And new HIV cases among drug users are way down. Now, numbers just released from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction paint an even more vivid picture of life under decriminalization: drug overdose deaths in Portugal are the second-lowest in the European Union. Among Portuguese adults, there are 3 drug overdose deaths for every 1,000,000 citizens. Comparable numbers in other countries range from 10.2 per million in the Netherlands to 44.6 per million in the U.K., all the way up to 126.8 per million in Estonia. The E.U. average is 17.3 per million. Perhaps more significantly, the report notes that the use of ... so-called "synthetic" marijuana, "bath salts" and the like is lower in Portugal than in any of the other countries for which reliable data exists. This is arguably a positive development for public health in the sense that many of the designer drugs that people develop to skirt existing drug laws have terrible and often deadly side effects.
Note: Portugal's inspiring approach has contributed to public health outcomes that starkly contrast U.S. trends.