When the treatment community focuses on the condition of the addict before the offending substance ever entered the user's system, treatment will show better results. Until then, we are putting a band aid on a monster of a problem and offering 5-10% success rates from current treatment practices.
Possessing heroin will get most people arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance. The same incident in Portugal would trigger a scheduled meeting with a social worker in an office building. Next, legal and psychological advice would be offered to ensure that the dangers of drug abuse are understood.
No criminal action would be taken. That difference has cut substance abuse in half among the Portuguese population Fears of becoming a drug-ridden slum didn't keep Portugal's parliament from decriminalizing illegal chemicals such as heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine and ecstasy since 2001.
The results have stunned the world as addiction rates declined dramatically while thousands of lives were restored. Different from legalizing, this move turned users into people in need of help instead of criminals.
Another outcome of the newer policies is that drug-related diseases and overdoses have been reduced even more than usage. Funds set aside for law enforcement and incarceration are being used for treatment and job creation instead.
Addicts no longer fear being thrown into the criminal justice system and labeled for life by admitting to a drug-use issue. With more than half of the U.S. prison population being incarcerated due to drug-related crimes, it isn't hard to see how dramatic the change such a program would make, should it be successfully implemented in the U.S.
Careful assessment is an important component in helping each person overcome a chemical dependency issue. Job creation is one of the primary goals of Portugal's plan to turn addicts' lives around. Giving them a reason to get up in the morning and a place to go became a factor in the users well-being. Optional rehabilitation is offered as well to support abstinence.
However, the biggest draw of the 14-year-old program is the removal of the threat of legal ramifications. Distribution and trafficking still remain criminal activity. If a person is carrying more than a 10-day supply of any given substance, he is arrested and charged.
The government deemed the following quantities indicative of personal use: one gram of heroin, two grams of cocaine, 25 grams of marijuana or five grams of hashish. In every situation, police seize and destroy all chemicals. If a person is caught a second time in this country on the Iberian Peninsula, phase two is initiated.
Community service may be assigned and fines possibly levied. Again, no jail time occurs. Rehabilitation is offered but not mandated leaving it up to the user to accept the chance to break his chemical ties. Without the stigma of a police record and given the freedom to choose made the difference for over half of the addicts in the country.
Today, Portugal's drug usage rates are among the lowest of the European member states. The Obama Administration attempted to curb the U.S. chemical epidemic with medications such as methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Each is used to ease or curb abuse and cravings by the addict.
Some chemicals claim to dramatically cut the risk of relapse in people hooked on opiates such as vicodin and oxycontin. Critics say that this plan just substitutes one drug for another. Others say it is sometimes essential to use chemicals to release the hooks of addiction.
With staggering statistics by the World Health Organization such as global use rates of 2 billion alcoholics, 185 million drug users and 1.3 billion smokers accounting for 3.3 million deaths annually, the situation demands immediate and serious attention.
Current numbers show one in ten Americans currently has a 'chemical use disorder' in some form. The target, again, is the issue that caused the chemical to trigger chemical hooks leading to addiction. New and improved tools must better target the imbalance and correct it. That could destroy the angry beast of addiction.