- The Washington Times - Friday, January 7, 2011

In the Jan. 3 letter to the editor “Enabling Portuguese junkies,” Calvina Fay accuses the Associated Press of spreading “half-truths and skewed statistics” in an article on drug decriminalization in Portugal. However, the figures she uses conflict with those we have presented in the only peer-reviewed academic article to have been published on this issue.

Ms. Fay says drug-related HIV and AIDS increased. In fact, there was a dramatic fall in cases of drug-related HIV and AIDS. She says recorded drug-related deaths increased after decriminalization. Most of the increase reflects an unrelated change in recording and reporting practices. Deaths attributed to drugs - which equate with how drug deaths are reported in the United States and most of the Western world - fell by more than 50 percent.

Portugal has not - as Ms. Fay claims - “given up” on drug users. On the contrary, it has also implemented an evidence-based policy of treatment and harm reduction with the explicit aim of including people who have used drugs in healthy and productive lives. The available evidence suggests that decriminalization and expansion of services have helped Portugal succeed in this aim.

ALEX STEVENS

Professor, University of Kent

Chatham, U.K.

CAITLIN HUGHES

Research fellow

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre

University of New South Wales

Sydney, Australia