Like everywhere else in the world, opioid overdose remains one of the biggest problems in America. While the country continues to struggle with the issue, other countries are successfully dealing with it. Portugal particularly handles its opioid abuse problem quite differently from most other countries including America. And if they are succeeding to fix this problem, why can’t the United States?
Let’s look at Portugal’s strategy and see how the US can fit in to make an impact in its attempts to deal with the abuse of opioids and other prescription medications.
While the US slams a $1,000 fine and up to one year prison term for first-time offenders possessing opioid, Portugal slams its own citizens with referral to rehab. The difference is clear; drug addicts in the US are considered criminals. In Portugal, they are seen as patients.
And it doesn’t end there. The American National Institute on Drug abuse estimates that dealing with a drug problem in treatment centers could cost up to $5,000in a year, and a one year jail term could cost up to $24,000. Portugal and other European countries do not consider the problem a felony and will not charge even a penny for treatment.
Drug possessors in Portugal are brought before a panel of rehab experts, not a panel of judges. These experts offer counseling and will do everything possible to convince the dealer to willingly go for rehab. It may be hard to believe, but refusing to go for treatment is not a punishable crime.
It is clear that drug abuse and particularly opioid overdose cost the United States billions of dollars every year. And while it is clear that this is greatly because such people are seen as criminals rather than patients, Portugal has already shown the world how beneficial it can be when you help this category of people rather than punish them.
The European country has been successful in dealing with the problem using this strategy. Maybe it is time America copies from them. It is probably time for the US to decriminalize opioid abuse, and channel more attention to helping these people recover from their problem. This model has worked in Portugal; it sure can work in America.