By Gino Vumbaca

As a new year begins so does the effort continue to make Australia a safer and more humane country in how we deal with people who use drugs.

Here are five changes that would make a real difference.

1. Decriminalise the personal use and possession of drugs

The levels of harm confronting people as a result of being criminalised for possessing and using small quantities of illicit drugs is extremely disproportionate to the level of harm actually caused. The impact of our current drug laws is staggering: greater risks of HIV and other blood borne viruses, higher incarceration rates and a range of other health and social problems. In contrast, the experience of Portugal, which decriminalised personal drug use in 2001, provides a valuable lesson for other countries. Contrary to the initial fears of some, the results have been reduced drug use, reduced overdose fatalities, reduced incarceration and a range of other positive outcomes.

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Thumbnail: Flickr CC Simon Law