While countries like Brazil and the Philippines struggle with violent drug wars, Portugal has seen dramatic decreases in the number of drug-related deaths and addiction.
A violent war has taken over the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Rocinha this week, as rival drug cartels fight for control of the local drug trade. The violence has been so extreme that schools and stores have shut down, leaving residents to hide in their homes until the situation is resolved. In the Philippines, thousands have been killed by police in drug raids sanctioned by President Rodrigo Duterte.
In both of these countries, the extreme prohibition of drugs has led to ever-escalating violence while failing to eradicate drug abuse. Meanwhile, in Portugal, where all drugs were decriminalized in 2001, drug use and drug-related deaths have been steadily declining. In 2009, the Cato Institute studied the repercussions of decriminalization and concluded that “the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success.”
Eight years later, Portugal’s decriminalization program has shown even more signs of success. The Portuguese Health Ministry estimated that the number of heroin addicts…