Portugal Shows the Solution

By Eduardo Passos


It doesn’t matter what your age, gender, ethnicity or genetic traits are. If you try any drug derived from opium once, you’re at high risk of becoming an addict. And by “an addict” I don’t mean doing it for fun on the weekends with your friends just for a high and giggles. I mean you are going to get to a point where you will be craving that opioid just so you’re not on your floor, feeling nauseous and ill with the only solution being using more or embracing the horrible withdrawal that could lead to death from quitting the drug cold turkey. This is what has been happening to addicts all around the United States. People start using these drugs mostly when they hit a point in their lives where they think there’s no return, a rock bottom. Or they are getting deadly and harmful drugs prescribed by doctors for pain relief, but little do the patients know that the pain will go away, but they will face a problem much worse than the pain they started with: addiction. The worst part is that in the United States, these drugs derived from opium are known as schedule 1 drug (meaning high abuse potential) and it is illegal to carry them, meaning that if you’re an addict and you get arrested for the use and possession of these drugs, you will be experiencing your horrible withdrawals behind bars. So why is the government so blind when it comes to solving a terrible problem that takes tens of thousands of lives yearly? Or, more importantly, what’s the solution to this? What can the government of the USA (and other countries) do to beat the opium epidemic?

The government should learn that addicts should be treated as people that are ill, not felons. And the problem with addiction is that it can lead to long-term deaths, but because we are talking about opium-derived drugs, people can die very quickly because of one mistake they make: an overdose. Overdoses are bound to happen to long term addicts. They will always seek a higher dose of whatever they’re taking, whether it’s opiates (derived from the opium poppy, such as heroin, codeine, and morphine) or opioids (synthetic, made in labs such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percocet, etc). The most commonly abused opiate is heroin. According to drugfreeworld.org, out of the 13.5 million people who take opiates, 9.2 million of them use heroin as their drug of choice. Also according to drugfreeworld.org, 4 out of 5 drug-related deaths involved heroin. Overdoses are very serious because you stop breathing automatically and if you fall asleep, your only hope is that someone finds you and calls an ambulance because if not, you’re gone. Narcan is a solution to overdoses. Narcan can be used nasally or intravenously to block opioids/opiates and completely sober up an overdosing patient and kill an overdose, some may think that all the government has to do is buy those and distribute it, right? No. Narcan is expensive so the government can’t afford to give them out for free, so although it is helpful, it won’t cure addicts of their addiction; however, it is infuriating that Narcan costs over a hundred dollars over the counter at a pharmacy, most addicts can’t afford that much for something that could save their lives. A realistic solution for the Narcan problem is that part of the money that people pay for taxes could go for buying Narcan for people struggling with addiction.

Now to the solution. What the United States needs is to stop demonizing the people who take these drugs. It sounds dull, I know, but listen. Decriminalizing these drugs is what got Portugal into winning the opium crisis. When you get government funded organizations to help these addicts by giving them sterilized needles, give them test kits to make sure their drug isn’t laced and giving them jobs. They will see that civilization accepts them and they will not rely on that drug anymore. These drugs take lives really easily, and although we are far from decriminalizing it, it would save the lives of over 15,000 people who died on an overdose in the US alone (according to CDC), because if we do, addicts will not be considered misfits and they won’t feel rejected by society anymore, giving them a lesser reason to feel hated and they will get all the help they need from the government-funded organizations directed towards helping addicts. What the government is too blind to see is that there’s a reason these people take those awful drugs and that’s because they reached a point in their life that they feel like it’s the only solution, and by having organizations that will help these addicts by showing them that there is an escape to that drug, these organizations would change their life for better (like what happened in Portugal) since they will see that there is a bright side to humanity: sympathy and kindness.


Works Cited

  1. MATClinics. “Opioids vs. Opiates?  What Are They? What Is the Difference?” Suboxone Treatment Clinics, Suboxone Treatment Clinics, 18 Mar. 2017, www.matclinics.com/matclinics-blog/2017/3/16/opioids-vs-opiates-what-are-they-what-is-the-difference-can-i-use-them-interchangeably.
  2. “Opioid Overdose.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Dec. 2018, www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html.
  3. Ferreira, Susana. “Portugal’s Radical Drugs Policy Is Working. Why Hasn’t the World Copied It?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 5 Dec. 2017, www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/05/portugals-radical-drugs-policy-is-working-why-hasnt-the-world-copied-it.
  4. “Heroin Vault.” Erowid Heroin Vault, 2013, erowid.org/chemicals/heroin/heroin.shtml.
  5. “Heroin Statistics – Facts About Heroin Addiction, Use & Death – Drug-Free World.” Foundation for a Drug-Free World, http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/heroin/international-statistics.html.
  6. Image website: https://blog.markgrowth.com/what-selling-heroin-can-teach-us-about-selling-any-product-823d9d8f6442