Gabor Maté

“The indispensable foundation of a rational stance toward drug addiction would be the decriminalization of all substance dependence and the provision of such substances to confirmed users under safely controlled conditions. It’s important to note that decriminalization does not mean legalization. Legalization would make manufacturing and selling drugs legal, acceptable
commercial activities.

Decriminalization refers only to removing from the penal code the possession of drugs for personal use. It would create the possibility of medically supervised dispensing when necessary. The fear that easier access to drugs would fuel addiction is unfounded: drugs, we have seen, are not the cause of addiction. Despite the fact that cannabis is openly available in Holland, for instance, Dutch per-capita use of marijuana is half that in the United States.

And no one is advocating the open availability of hard drugs. Decriminalization also does not mean that addicts will be able to walk into any pharmacy to get a prescription of cocaine. Their drugs of dependence should be dispensed under public authority and under medical supervision, in pure form, not adulterated by unscrupulous dealers. Addicts also ought to be offered the information, the facilities and the instruments they need to use drugs as safely as possible.

The health benefits of such an approach are self-evident: greatly reduced risk of infection and disease transmission, much less risk of overdose and, very importantly, comfortable and regular access to medical care. Not having to spend exorbitant amounts on drugs that, in themselves,
are inexpensive to prepare, addicts would not be forced into crime, violence, prostitution or poverty to pay for their habits. They would not have to decide between eating or drug use, or to scrounge for food in garbage cans or pick cigarette butts out of sidewalk puddles. They would no longer need to suffer malnutrition.”


Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Maté
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