UK politicians have been urged to decriminalise the use and possession of most drugs after addiction rates in Portugal were cut by half following decriminalisation in the country almost 15 years ago

Instead of being jailed, drug users in Portugal were encouraged to reconnect with their feelings and the wider community.

Since then, the number of people addicted to heroin has halved and rates of HIV infection and drug-related deaths have decreased.

Back in the 1990s “we feared that Portugal could turn into a paradise for drug users,” Dr Jaoa Goulao, Portugal’s national co-ordinator on drugs and drug addiction, told the BBC.

“Thanks to the policy, that didn’t happen.”

Around 25 countries have removed criminal penalties for the personal possession of some or all drugs as part of a global trend away from punitive drug policies.

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Photo title: Portuguese minister for health, Ana Jorge, on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in 2010

Photo credit: © Nuno Saraiva