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Essay on Drug Decriminalization

Drug decriminalization is a contentious topic to discuss as opinion is divided if it is an option or not. It can be defined as eliminating criminal penalties for drug use and possession. Drug decriminalization can also include the elimination of criminal penalties on the use and possession of equipment used to manufacture drugs. Some people argue that drug decriminalization would lead to a much bigger drug addiction problem, while others see the success Portugal has had since it decriminalized drugs some years ago. It should be noted that the criminalization of drug use leads to several arrests in the US. According to the Drug Policy Alliance report (2017), drug-related arrests stand at 1.5 million annually, which is above all the arrests from the other violent crimes combined. In addition to mass arrest, drug use criminalization has led to some other social ills such as racial and ethnic disparities, loss of financial aid, and mass detentions. Considering the success drug decriminalization has enjoyed in Portugal and the punitive penalties and consequences attached to the criminalization of drug use, it is prudent and timely for other countries like the US to consider trying drug decriminalization to free-up resources for critical functions such as keeping drug addicts as healthy as possible.

A review of its success in Portugal is necessary to understand the potential success of a drug decriminalization policy. According to Aleem (2015), Portugal’s drug decriminalization policy led to a general decrease of drug users in the 15-24 years age bracket, the population extensively exposed to drug use. Drug-related deaths have significantly reduced, AIDS infections and deaths related to drug use have also considerably decreased. According to the findings of a report published in 2010 in the British Journal of Criminology, after drug decriminalization, the number of arrests and imprisonments decreased (Aleem, 2015). Additionally, Drug Policy Alliance (2015) asserts that drug decriminalization has led to more people in Portugal seeking drug treatment. For instance, the number of people on drug treatment increased by 60% between 1998 and 2011. Furthermore, drug decriminalization led to an 18% reduction in per capita social cost of a drug in Portugal.

Opponents of drug decriminalization argue that it sets a bad example for the young and future generations. However, the probation of drug use has only led to a drug addiction menace globally. Additionally, it is critical that even if a drug is prohibited, that does not mean that the market has been eliminated. Nations should adopt a drug decriminalization policy as it is a proven way of dealing with drug use. Prohibition shrinks the market, leading to hiked drug prices, creating a multibillion-dollar market that is detrimental to the economy (Sayal, 2022).

In conclusion, the advantages of a drug decriminalization policy outnumber the demerits. Portugal has illustrated that drug decriminalization leads to fewer drug-related arrests and drug-related AIDS cases. It also decreases drug use and increases the number of drug treatment patients. Even though many nations have criminalized drug use, they have failed to eliminate the drug trade through the black market, which hampers economic growth.


Aleem, Z. (2015, February 11). 14 Years After Decriminalizing All Drugs, Here’s What Portugal Looks Like. Mic.

Drug Policy Alliance. (2015, February 2015). Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: A Health-Centered Approach. DPA_Fact_Sheet_Portugal_Decriminalization_Feb2015.pdf (

Drug Policy Alliance. (2017, August 31). It’s Time for the US to Decriminalize Drug Use and Possession.,drugs%20into%20the%20human%20body%2C%20such%20as%20syringes.

Sayal, A. (2022, March 25). Opinion | Let drug decriminalization win the War on Drugs | Part II. The Daily Illini.


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