The war on drugs will never be won. Where there is a demand, there will always be someone supplying the product. When a dealer is arrested by the police, it takes a user about 10 minutes on the phone to find another supplier. As a non drug-user I know if I called five names in my phone, I would be able to obtain the phone number of someone who could supply me with drugs, or the phone number of someone who knows a dealer. That is the world we live in today in Australia, as drugs, more than ever, are an accepted part of society.
So what is the answer? Do we decriminalise every available drug for personal use but still ban the sale? Under Portugal’s decriminalisation strategy, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs meet with a panel, consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser which works out an appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.
How does this help the drug user seeking help? The user is being given a choice, something they have not been given in the past. With any addiction, it takes a lot of strength and effort to break and hard drugs are no different. The results in Portugal are impressive, with deaths related to heroin and similar drugs decreasing by more than half. Portugal also saw a sharp increase in people who sought treatment for methadone and buprenorphine, rising from 6040 to 14877 after decriminalisation.
Portugal is a case study worthy of further investigation and analysis our government. I am still undecided on whether decriminalisation of drugs would work in Australia. All I know is that what is happening now, isn’t working.
Does the government need to rethink their policy on tackling drugs?