April 13th, 2024

Supervised consumption panel says it looked at Portugal’s method of decriminalization

By GILLIAN SLADE on January 30, 2020.


Alberta has taken a look at the way Portugal addressed its issues with drug addiction over the past two decades.

“The SCS (supervised consumption site) Review Committee examined a wide range of evidence and strategies, including the Portuguese model, as part of its work,” said Kassandra Kitz, press secretary for the associate ministry of mental health and addiction.

Jason Luan, associate minister for mental health and addiction, is in receipt of a report from the review panel appointed last summer. That report has not been made public yet.

About 20 years ago Portugal decriminalized the consumption, acquisition and possession of drugs for personal use and has been recognized for the positive change it brought about.

Portugal established a maximum amount one person can legally have for their own consumption. Someone with that amount or less, where there is no suspicion of drug trafficking, is evaluated by a team comprising of medical doctors, psychologists, sociologists or social workers and a lawyer with the objective of determining the need for treatment to facilitate recovery.

Someone trafficking drugs faces imprisonment, according to online media reports.

Drug use has declined in Portugal among those between the ages of 15 and 24 years and there has been a decline among those using drugs for the first time.

It was not only decriminalizing drugs that made the difference but an emphasis on health for those with an addiction. There are reports online, and even YouTube videos, of health workers making visits to areas where people are known to be using drugs. They provide them with clean needles in exchange for used ones. There is also the equivalent of a “food truck” that pulls in at specific locations to dispense methadone. Reports show people who were previously homeless and unable to work due to an addiction now receiving methadone near their office where they work in Lisbon.

Kitz says in Alberta the plan is a range of treatment and recovery supports.

“Our government supports incorporating harm reduction into a broad continuum of addiction treatment and recovery supports, as does the model used in Portugal,” said Kitz.

“For too long, funding for detox, treatment and recovery supports was insufficient to meet the needs of Albertans. We are committed to ensuring every individual who needs it gets the opportunity to find their path to long-term recovery and a healthy life.”


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