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How former junkie capital of Europe Portugal halved number of addicts by ending prosecution of users

It was known as the biggest drugs supermarket in Europe. A shanty town on a hill to which 5,000 junkies a day would flock to peddle their lethal wares or get their fix.

People using needles in the street hardly raised an eyebrow. Dead bodies lying around on the pavement were a common morning sight.

Casal Ventoso was not just a mad, bad neighbourhood of Lisbon. It was a byword for hell in a country ravaged by narcotics abuse.

Portugal’s drugs tzar Dr Joao Goulao says: “Almost every morning we’d find dead bodies. Around 5,000 came every day to buy, sell and take drugs. The impact on public health was huge.”

Then something happened that changed it all. Because 14 years ago, Portugal – faced with 100,000 drug addicts as we approached the new millennium – did the unthinkable.

 

Rue do Casal Vents, notorious drug area</body></html>...
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