Time to take a turn: Opening up for drugs

For years Europe has been hidebound and paternalistic about drugs legislations. Time to take the arguments under the loop and open up the debate.
Authors: Paloma Álvarez, Derek J. W., Suzanne Vink,
Raquel Envó, Alba Montoya


(Photo source: Indian Express)

Aside from a few countries that have partial or full decriminalization of certain types of drugs, most countries in Europe have strict prohibitions for all types of drugs. Research has shown many good reasons for reform, yet time and time again one-sided views and a special treatment are preferred.

In the Netherlands for example, back in 2007, a girl committed suicide while under the influence of mushrooms. Immediately the government banned most species of mushrooms. In perspective, worldwide 736, 000 people die of sugar and fat; 115, 000 of tobacco and 63, 000 of alcohol each week.  Time to shake up the debate and become more open-minded about how we  can truly make a healthier and safer society.

Moreover, an indispensable fact to mention is how criminalization of drugs has a negative consequence on people. In fact, as drugs are not regulated, it involves not only the use of unsafe drugs mixed with all sorts of things due to the lack of information, but also lower quality standards. Thus, by regulating drugs, the amount of people dying from overdoses will decrease since they would be knowing exactly what they are consuming and the appropriate amount to take, avoiding any risks.

An example to look at is Portugal, where drug decriminalization was approved in 2000, resulting in a decrease from 1,016 HIV infection cases to 56 in 2012, and overdose deaths have also declined from 80 on the year the law was implied to 16 in 2012.  Ricardo Fuertes, project coordinator at GAT, an organization for people living with HIV, says: “Usually the focus is on the decriminalization itself, but it worked because there were other services, and the coverage increase for needle replacement, detox, therapeutic communities, and employment options for people who use drugs”.

Besides, services among citizens would increase with the money saved in customs, legal and juridical systems.

Additionally, are different types of drugs really that addictive? It has been the favorite argument for strict regulations, but research might prove otherwise. Bruce Alexander showed addiction has more to do with social circumstances than with the actual chemicals. However, he did his experiments with rats, and rats are not people. Nevertheless, he might be onto something. Anneke Goudriaan (Professor Treatment of Addictions) explains: “Many substances are addictive for some people. How addictive a substance is depends on how strong the effect of the substance is and how long it has effect on the body”.

There is no need to immediately turn 180 degrees and overturn all existing legislation. However, we would serve ourselves and victims-to-be well if we would open up the debate. Let us take thorough research as the standard for our arguments instead of emotional statements based on fear. Making good policies is difficult, so much the more it is important to inform ourselves well.



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