What we have been doing. Those in Ireland and other European countries have been treating drug use as a criminal justice issue.
This has not changed much, unless, of course, the change is in a negative light. Increased reports of connections between drug use and HIV/Aids or drug overdosing has shown us there is a huge problem. Now Europe is talking about ways to change this problem.
Solutions? It seems Portugal may have found a solution to criminalization, namely decriminalization.
Around 14 years ago, Portugal changed its tune about drug use. Instead of criminalizing users, Portugal decided to treat the problem as a public health issues. They now have the lowest drug related deaths in all of Europe.
Other countries have taken notice of these changes, especially Ireland. Aodhan O Riordain, minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy united regional drug and alcohol task forces in Dublin to discuss moving toward this new ideal. According to the Irish Times, the majority voted positive for the change toward treatment instead of criminal treatment.
O Riordain said, “There has to be a continuum of care. We must understand counseling, support and resources.”
Some of the members of the Committee on Justice, Defense and Equality spent the summer learning about the 15-year experiment with decriminalization. Predictions that Portugal would become a destination for drug users did not come true, considering the findings reported a decrease in HIV/Aids, drug use and drug crimes.
Peter McVerry, a priest who worked with the homeless for 35 years in Ireland, told the Irish Times,
“The enormous cost of arresting people and prosecuting people for drug possession over the last 30-40 years has been pointless.”
By Sherrie H.