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Drug Decriminalization & Mental Health Policies: The Portugal Experiment

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Reading the recent Willamette Week story, “Saving Ryan: Why it was left to two Portland judges to bring this junkie back from the brink,” September 15, 2010, by James Pitkin, reminded me of two things (more than two, actually, but only two that can be written about in the space of a blog post):

One: A book: “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through his Son’s Addiction,” by David Sheff

Two: If you haven’t read about Portugal’s approach to drug addiction, crime, and health care, here are a few articles I’ve referred people to, though there are others if you want to do a full literature search. But these offer a good introduction to tease and tempt you into reading more:

a) I first heard about the Portugal drug program, and the legislative struggle to enact the new laws, on Rick Steve’s radio program in May 2010 (riveting!)

b) Wikipedia story (précis) on the Portugal program.

c) Guardian (U.K.): “What Britain could learn from Portugal’s drugs policy: A decade ago Portugal took a radical new approach to illegal drugs by treating users as people,” Sept. 5, 2010, by Peter Beaumont, The Observer

d) Scientific American: “5 Years After: Portugal’s Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results Street drug-related deaths from overdoses drop and the rate of HIV cases crashes,” by Brian Vastag, Scientific American, April 7, 2009