Posts Tagged ‘portugal’

New Era for Drugs Policy

There has been a lot in the news recently about the ineffectiveness of the current prohibitive stance taken by the first world countries, and the resulting “failure” of the war on drugs. Again there have been many reports on the Portuguese Model, and the fact that this model may be the way forward for drug services many of the reports suggest that this is a new model, and it is revolutionary, and
Soon and so forth.
This model is indeed revolutionary, you can see this just by the way the model has increased the
Number of those in treatment and accessing treatment. You can see how successful the model is
When you see the reduction in BBV transmission and a rise in the numbers of those in treatment,
All these facts quite rightly highlighted in the various press articles and reports.
However as with everything that is reported, there are parts of the process which are not so readily or so enthusiastically reported by the media.
For example, the media have omitted to inform the public that this strategy is not just about changing the concept of drug use from a criminal justice issue to a health one, it is also about Social Change.
From the early 20th century, indeed probably from the time of Rush and Trotter the medical professions have tied to ” cure” addiction, by utilising various cures and social reinforces such as licensing legislation, the professionalisation of treatment processes, and medicalisation of the
Condition.
Also many countries have started to look at how to control drug use within their populations by embarking down a parallel route of enforcement and control, linked to the “cure” paradigm of the medical model, in effect criminalising and stigmatising the very populations they are supposed to be helping. Within this drive to control substance accessibility within the population, the Professionals who originally conceived the medical model as a way to break free from the moral model and its pejorative language and solutions, started to assert a more sinister form of Social Control, by pedaling the myth that there was no cure per se, but only the route of on going
Treatment for this disease of the mind, and the acceptance of the new mantra of abstinance as the only way to maintain your “normally acceptable behaviour”. These groups of professionals also started to build an impenetrable myth around this act of taking substances by introducing
medicalised terminology and concepts, one can only assume to mystifies the whole idea of a Disease that not only affects a person’s psyche, but also can be physically and morally dangerous. It is the ingrained concepts and beliefs of these widely accepted and held myths that allow the Media to sensationalise what is in the eyes of most academics, and drugs workers, an almost logical next step in the life of the construct that is addiction. The Portuguese model that has been sensationalised in the majority of the right wing press, is a very simple idea that could be argued has its roots in the development of the Harm Reduction movement started in Britain and Europe In the wake of the discovery of HIV in the eighties. When countries like the UK, led the way in
The development of services which are now the backbone of modern addiction and harm reduction services. The whole concept of the model is to facilitate the drug user into treatment, and to this end the Portuguese Authorities, allowed the police and enforcement services to in effect de-criminalise the small fish, the everyday drug user, and allow them to utilise the resources which would have been spent on chasing up the lesser offenders, putting them into custody, and treatment programs whilst there. Something a lot of the reports touched on, but were ambiguous about the reasons why they chose this route… The press also spent lots of time suggesting that his process of decriminalisation would allow drug use to rage through Portuguese Society, and bring in undesirables into the country as drug tourists, which would turn the Family Holiday destination into some kind of modern Sodom and Gomorra. Unsurprisingly this didn’t happen, in fact none of the
Dreadful social fallout that was predicted did, instead, the rampaging epidemic of blood borne Virus, criminality, and substance use itself actually declined, the streets of Lisbon were not turned Into avenues of vice fueled by ever increasing crowds of drug seeking criminals. The costs of maintaining an enforcement based policy, was transferred into maintaining a treatment system that now offered hope instead of writing people off, a system that put recovery at the heart of treatment instead of criminality, and a system that offered treatment as a viable option instead of incarceration or criminal justice solutions. In effect, what the policy implementation in Portugal means is now rather than spending money on incarcerating and caring for ever increasing numbers of petty offenders, the drugs enforcement apparatus can now spend funds on targeting the criminal networks who supply and import the substances, and once they seize their assets, these can also be utilised to facilitate the dissemination of services, and delivery of services, in the short term effectively turning enforcement into a self-sustaining process. In the long term however Portugal has to decide whether this model, which goes against the European love for enforcement will form the bases of a long term strategy.
Although Europe is humming and hawing with regards to the concept of decriminalization, and if when and how to implement this revolutionary new model, a worldwide movement is gathering strength, condemning the so called “war on drugs”, and calling for less prohibitive legislation, and a more liberal treatment based framework, citing Portugal and various other radical harm reduction interventions such as Drug Consumption rooms and peer led intervention centers as the blueprint for future policy developments in policy.
This movement has also pushed the idea of the prohibitive legal and criminal justice system, set up to protect us from the all-consuming drug criminality that is powerful enough to affect nation states, as being an arm of international foreign policy, and of targeting so called failed states, to prevent them from becoming havens for the evil drug cartels. After all, Great Britain, one of the greatest empires next to the Roman Empire, peddled drugs, which allowed us to gain territory in China (Hong Kong), and take land from indigenous populations, for a bottle of whisky (Maori’s, Aborigines’, Native Canadians), in fact this policy of subduing native populations with alcohol, continued into the times of the United States of America, defenders of the free.
The new wave of awareness and understanding about drug use and the issues which cause it, are indeed changing the face of drugs policy, but we still have to be fully aware of how current foreign policy is linked inextricably to drugs policy, we also have to be aware of how financial crisis can alter perceptions of what is a good drug and a bad drug, this is no more evident in the US of A where a number of states have now legalized, or decriminalised cannabis in order to cash in on its popularity, how long will it be till we see the same process in the UK, cannabis4U coming to a high street near you”, once the politicians see how much cash can be generated from the selling of licenses, and the setting up of legal cannabis farms, and the whole infrastructure that goes with it, it may come to the UK sooner than we think. It is indeed a new era for drug laws, and the defining of drug related criminality.

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