By Staff Writer
With persistently high rates of drug addiction, some experts are calling for a shift in U.S. policy that would make drug rehab more accessible for addicts.
White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske recently visited Portugal to learn more about the country’s drug enforcement policy, which some have called innovative, according to the Associated Press. The European country has decriminalized all illegal drugs, which means that addicts who are arrested for possession are sent to drug rehab programs rather than jail.
While some critics of the move said that addiction and drug-related crime would increase, the numbers paint a different picture. Officials say that adolescent drug abuse, drug-related HIV diagnoses and court cases all declined. Additionally, overall drug use stayed level.
“It was a very hard change to make at the time because the drug issue involves lots of prejudices,” Portugal Prime Minister Jose Socrates told the news source. “You just need to rid yourselves of prejudice and take an intelligent approach.”
It is an approach that more and more U.S. states are beginning to take. A number of local governments have adopted drug court programs in recent years. These initiatives allow nonviolent offenders to enroll in drug rehab rather than go to prison.