NPR, April 18, 2017
Lauren Frayer

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[...] By the 1990s, 1 percent of Portugal's population was hooked on heroin. It was one of the worst drug epidemics in the world, and it prompted Portugal's government to take a novel approach: It decriminalized all drugs. Starting in 2001, possession or use of any drug — even heroin — has been treated as a health issue, not a crime.

Goulão, who had worked as a family physician in his 20s, at the height of the crisis, says there was very little opposition to the policy change.

"Every family had its own drug addict. It was so, so present in everyday life, that it turned public opinion," Goulão says. "We are dealing with a chronic relapsing disease, and this is a disease like any other. I do not put a diabetic in jail, for instance."

Under the 2001 decriminalization law, authored by Goulão, drug dealers are still sent to prison. But anyone caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug — including heroin — gets mandatory medical treatment. No judge, no courtroom, no jail. [...]

addiction criminal law health law policy international public health