Portugal`s health-centered approach toward Drug abuse, and why it works.
In the start of the 21th century, Portugal was suffering from one of the worst drug problems in Europe, with the estimation of 1% percent of the population were addicted to heroin. After many years of trying to decrease the number of addicts by using more stigmatizing drug politics, like US and UK uses, the government decided find another way to approach this national problem by collaborating with scientist, psychologist and different health profession. With the help from by Dr. João Goulão, Portugal develops a humanitarian model within their drug policy. This involved decriminalize the use of all drug (except dealing), and using the government funding on helping drug addicts get acess to rehab programs and psychological theraphy, as well as reconnect with their community again by promoting more jobs to give them and microloans to help them build up businesses. As a result, the whole view on addiction went from being seen as a crime to an illness. After two decades, Portugal went from being the country with worse drug problem in Europe to the country with the second lowest fatal overdose rate in Europe.
According to Johann Hari`s Ted talk about drug addict, many research and specialist have shown more evidence theories that addiction is not the matter of chemicals hooks, but the environment a person lives in. In that case, drug abuse could be seen as a way to bond with our environment, which makes sense why many people start with drugs obtain some relief or joy from the tough environment they live in. From the opposite perspective, this theory is still remain argued for because the reason also why some won`t start with addiction is since they have good relationship with their environment and bonding with their family and friends. Hence, Hari also further conclude these theories with why the Portugal model worked so well. By giving addicts job opportunities as well as the rehab and therapy options, many are able found a purpose in life again while recovering and further recognize and establish the bond`s and relationship with their environment.
Of the psychological contribution to this model in Portugal, psychologists together with the treatment team collaborate to provide all the services at all the sites available. When it comes to the psychologist`s individual work, they focus on emphasis the harm reduction. This means that not only does psychologist hold therapy session in offices, but they also go to the street and offer care to the drug users who needs it, in order to establish a relationship between the drug users individually so they feel safer to ask for help. In addition, psychologist along with social works are be responsible for find drug addicts a place to live during the treatment program. The psychological therapy itself is guided by the goal of help empower individual while letting them attain their freedom.
Going from following traditional drug policies to taking a risk at establishing a completely new drug policy, Portugal has not only proven that it does exist a more humanitarian approach toward drug abuse, but also the incredible outcome a government can provide by side-to-side with experts, such as health-care profession. Yet, many countries have remained stubborn and true to their traditional laws around drug addiction instead of changing it, although Portugal`s drug policy may have found a solution to permanently decrease drug problem for good in many countries. Nevertheless, the Portugal model are further contributing newer approaches to use within psychology and therapy involving helping drug addicts at rehab-centers or psychiatric-institutions.
Hari, J. (2015, July 9). Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong. TED Talks. https://www.ted.com/talks/johann_hari_everything_you_think_you_know_about_addiction_is_wrong#t-841474
Ahlquist, S. (2020, January 11). Dr João Goulão, architect of Portugal’s drug policy, shares his success with the General Assembly. Uprise RI. https://upriseri.com/2020-01-11-dr-goulao/
Malibu, I. (2021, February 6). Portugal's Decriminalization Success for Addiction and Drug Abuse. Inspire Malibu. https://www.inspiremalibu.com/blog/drug-addiction/portugals-decriminalization-success-for-addiction-and-drug-abuse/
APA, (n.d) How Portugal is solving its opioid problem. https://www.apa.org./monitor/2018/10/portugal-opiod
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