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Portugal’s Public Health Approach To Drugs Serves As Global Model

New York Times: How to Win a War on Drugs
Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist

“…Portugal … has become a model for a drug policy that is not only compassionate but also effective. … The public health approach arises from an increasingly common view worldwide that addiction is a chronic disease … and thus requires medical care rather than punishment. … [A]lthough the Portuguese model is often described simply as decriminalization, perhaps the more important part is a public health initiative to treat addiction and discourage narcotics use. … On balance, the evidence is that drug use stabilized or declined since Portugal changed approaches … Decriminalization also made it easier to fight infectious diseases and treat overdoses. … The lesson that Portugal offers the world is that while we can’t eradicate heroin, it’s possible to save the lives of drug users — if we’re willing to treat them not as criminals but as sick, suffering human beings who need helping hands, not handcuffs” (9/22).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.