GOOD

How One Country Is Fighting Drug Use — And Winning — With Empathy

Portugal faced its drug crisis head-on through decriminalization and encouraging treatment, and the results are staggering.

THE GOOD NEWS:

Drug use has plummeted in Portugal thanks to decriminalization and concerted efforts to treat, not punish those suffering from addiction.


The drug epidemic in Portugal was at a high in the 1970s and 1980s, with heroin use a growing issue. The tiny coastal neighbor of Spain, and for decades one of the poorest countries in Europe, had the highest rate of HIV infection in the entire European Union. Under an authoritarian regime from the 1930s to the 1970s, the education system was weakened and the people were somewhat cut off from the rest of the world. When the regime fell in 1974, drugs flooded into the country all too quickly. That’s how the epidemic grew seemingly overnight.

In 2001, Portugal became the first country to decriminalize illegal substances. The idea was to reform instead of punish. If you were caught with illegal substances, you’d likely be charged a small fine and would have to report to a local commission to discuss treatment or support services. Being required to meet with a doctor or lawyer to discuss your relationship to drugs was a big step up from getting arrested.

Photo by Daniel Santalla/Life of Pix.

Following the decriminalization of illegal substances, the opioid crisis in Portugal calmed. Overdose deaths have decreased, as have drug-related crimes. And with this, the HIV infection rate came down drastically. In 2000, there were 104.2 new HIV cases per million Portuguese residents. In 2015, there were 4.2 cases per million residents.

It’s worth noting that Portugal has also changed the rhetoric they use when referring to drug culture and addiction. Instead of shaming citizens for using and referring to users in demeaning terms, they’ve changed the narrative. Those struggling with addiction are now referred to as “people with addiction disorders” instead of “junkies.”

Portugal proves it’s possible to recover from a mounting drug crisis. They’ve shown that decriminalizing drugs and helping treat users instead of shaming them and throwing them in jail can prove valuable. And, ultimately, it can not only lead to decreased drug use but also lessen the spread of HIV and discourage drug-related violence.

Health
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Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

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But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

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God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

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But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

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via Wikimedia Commons

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

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