Hey everyone! This is my second round for my first cycle this year. For those of you who have read my first round, welcome back! For those who are new, welcome! Getting back to my research, my inquiry question is...
Does socially accepting drug addiction affect its usage among consumers positively or negatively?
In this round, I will be looking into the positive effects of socially accepting drug addiction. So, let's get started!
How to reduce stigma:
Last week, I talked about the stigma surrounding drug addiction, but I also want to go over how to reduce stigma. Just a quick rundown: stigma can be classified as negative judging, isolating, or stereotyping. People who use drugs or even the family of a drug user can be greatly affected by this stigma.
These people may feel shame, isolation, fear and/or anger. The best and easiest way to reduce stigma is to talk. Talking openly and respectfully about substance abuse creates a relation of trust and compassion which can be necessary for those who feel isolated and alone. (1)
I've mentioned the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal a few times now, but I would like to dive deeper into explaining what all this means exactly. So, in the 80's, drug use became very common - at the time, 1 in 10 people had used heroin. Consequently, Portugal and its government went into a state of panic. One in every 100 Portuguese was battling with a heroin addiction and HIV infection in Portugal was the highest in the European Union. In 2001, about twenty years later, Portugal became the first country to decriminalize "the possession and consumption of all illicit substances." What this means is that instead of being arrested, those caught with drugs on hand will be given a small fine, a warning, and/or will have to check in with a doctor or social worker to talk about support and treatment options.
Portugal saw great improvement fairly quickly. HIV rates dropped from 104.2 new cases per million (2002) to 4.2 cases per million (2015). Currently, among Portugal's citizens, there are 3 drug overdose deaths for every 1,000,000 people. Compared to 10.2 per million in the Netherlands and 126.8 per million in Estonia, there is an evident difference. In addition, the stigma of drug users has also begun to change. "Drogados" (junkies) was a term used often in Portugal but has since been replaced with “people who use drugs” or “people with addiction disorders” which is also a very important change. (2)(3)
As most of you already know, marijuana has recently been legalized in Canada. I wanted to bring this up for two reasons. The first being that it is quite similar to Portugal's situation just on a smaller scale. The second reason being that decriminalization and legalization are quite different but may seem synonymous at first glance. Starting off with the difference between the two: decriminalization is when the criminal penalties of a certain act are weakened/lessened but the use, manufacturing and sale of the drug remain illegal. Legalization, on the other hand, is the lifting of any and all laws banning the possession and/or personal use of a drug.
Obviously, the legalization of marijuana in Canada is too recent for there to be any accurate statistics depicting the usage since it's legalization. This was just some food for thought since a lot of people referenced this event upon my telling of my inquiry question. (3)(4)
To conclude, it is evident that Portugal has seen very impressive results from its decriminalization which has led directly to the lifting (or at least weakening) of the stigma around drug use. However, I believe it's also very pertinent to consider that just because Portugal has seen such positive results, it does not guarantee that all countries would receive the same thing. In sum, I don't think there is enough evidence to conclude for certain what would happen if all drugs were decriminalized globally. However, based on the information I have gathered, it is safe to say that a reduced amount of overdoses and a more open discussion about addiction is probable.
In my final round, I will be looking at the negative effects of my question. Will social acceptance encourage others to use drugs? Will children not understand the dire effects of addiction if drugs were socially accepted? These and more are some questions I hope I will be able to answer.
I hope you all learned something new from my research and enjoyed reading. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments. Thank you for reading!