In the 1990s Portugal was in the throes of a national crisis, averaging 360 drug overdose deaths a year in a country of 10 million. Today, it has one of Europe’s lowest rates of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and the number of overdose deaths in 2016 was 26. In a weeklong series from Portugal, Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham looks at the lessons to be learned from the country’s radical approach to addiction treatment.

LISBON, Portugal — It’s irrefutable that Portugal’s radical departure from conventional wisdom on how to deal with drug addictions and an overdose crisis has been an overwhelming success.

Among the telling statistics is that Portugal has an overdose death rate barely a quarter of the European average. HIV/AIDS and hepatitis infection rates are among the lowest in Europe. So is drug use in every demographic group.

The other statistics are economic. Indirect health costs related to addictions and overdose deaths dropped 12 per cent in only five years. Over a decade, the reduction in social costs — direct and indirect spending on health care, legal costs including prosecuting and incarcerating drugs users plus the costs of lost production and lost income because of incarceration — have been estimated at 18 per cent.

A recent report by the B.C. Centre on Substance Use urged British Columbia to consider Portugal’s robust recovery-oriented model, which offers universally accessible, comprehensive and coordinated treatment for drug users. Four working groups are developing recommendations for the B.C. government.

A year ago, Canada’s Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould was in Lisbon to take a look, along with Jane Philpott, who was then federal health minister.

Since 2001, the Portuguese government has been taking measures to treat illicit drug use as a health problem, not a criminal one.

LISBON, Portugal: JUNE 08, 2018 — In 2001, the Portuguese government overhauled …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun – World

      

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