Donald Hank
Further proof of higher drug use since decriminalization in Portugal
More proof of higher drug use in Portugal
By Donald Hank
July 9, 2011

In the previous article, one of my readers questioned the translated excerpt from the article in the Portuguese medical journal Saude. He pointed out that when drugs are first legalized, people who once were afraid to report their drug use were emboldened enough to admit it and this was a factor that skewed the statistics, making it look as if drug use had increased when in fact it had not.

He said he was sure that if I translated the rest, he would be able to deduce such a skewing from the rest of the article.

This challenged me to translate the rest in case others may have had the same suspicion.

As you can see from the translation below, however, there are considerable data on increased drug related mortalities, which are not dependent on subjective reporting by the drug users themselves, since the drugs would have been detected at autopsy. The significant increase in drug-related homicides is also independent of reports by the users themselves.

Therefore, at least for these data, we can pretty much discount the above-mentioned skewing factor.

The long time — about 6 years — from the time of decriminalization to the end of the study also militates against such an explanation because there would have been ample time for the skew to be offset. And further, there seems to have been a steady increase over time, not a spike the year after decriminalization as one might expect if the above-described hypothesis were true.

Finally, it is astonishing to note that, despite the government's offering of clean needles and the fact that it did not arrest any drug users, Portugal's rate of mortalities from HIV/AIDS among drug users was the highest in all of Europe! How this is supposed to be compatible with the verdict "resounding success in all metrics," as reported by Cato and then repeated by Scientific American, is absolutely baffling.

Yet it makes sense if you consider that non-enforcement would certainly encourage some people to take drugs who would otherwise not have fallen into the vice for fear of arrest and jail. In fact, the government's laissez-faire policy certainly must have led some to think hard drugs were not as harmful as was once thought. Otherwise, why would my government allow me to use them?

So while these findings are not consistent in any way with the reports bruited to the world, they are indeed consistent with logic and common sense.

My complete translation is as follows:

Heroine consumption rose 57.5% in recent years

Model for combating drugs is 'pure disinformation' — APLD President

At variance with what official agencies have recently disclosed, the problem of drug dependence in Portugal has never been more serious: Between 2001, the year the decriminalization law went into effect, and 2007, continued consumption of narcotics rose, in absolute terms, by 66%.

In this period, consumption increased 215% for cocaine, 85% for ecstasy, 57.5% for heroine and 37% for cannabis.. These data are from a report of the Institute of Drugs and Drug Dependence (IDT), published in 2008.

Since decriminalization there has been a 50% increase in drug use among young people between the ages of 20 and 24. On the other hand, the number of persons who have experimented with illicit drugs at least once rose from 7.8% in 2001 to 12% in 2007 (IDT Report of Activities of Nov 2008).

The highest mortality rates due to HIV/AIDS among drug users were reported by Portugal, followed by Estonia, Spain, Latvia and Italy.

The number of deaths testing positively for drugs (314) at the Portuguese Institute of Forensic Medicine in 2007, showed a 45% increase, an enormous rise over 2006 (216). This represents the highest figures since 2001, accentuating the increasing trend in drugs since 2005.

In Portugal, since decriminalization, the number of drug-related homicides increased 40%. Portugal was the only European country with a significant increase in (drug-related) homicides between 2001 and 2006.

© Donald Hank


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Donald Hank

Until July of 2009, Don Hank was operating a technical translation agency out of his home in Wrightsville, PA. He is now retired and residing in Panama with his wife and daughter.

A former language teacher, he holds an undergraduate degree in French and German from Millersville State University (PA), a Master's degree in Russian language and literature from Kutztown State College (also in PA), has studied Chinese for 3 years in Taiwan at the Mandarin Training Center, and is self-taught in other languages, having logged a total of 8 years abroad in total immersion situations.

He is also the founder of Lancaster-York Non-Custodial Parents, a volunteer organization that provides Christian counseling for non-custodial parents.


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