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Portugal to set up supervised drug-injection sites


TODAYonline.com, August 25, 2006

Stacks of seized heroin. Portugal's government approved the creation of neighbourhood drug-injection sites where addicts can shoot up under supervision.

Portugal's government approved the creation of neighbourhood drug-injection sites where addicts can shoot up under supervision.

New measures to be put in place by 2008 also call for the installation of needle exchange machines in prisons.

They are part of a wider plan approved by the cabinet aiming to "reduce the consumption of drugs and diminish their harmful social and health effects", the government said in a statement.

The plan also calls for the greater use of methadone, a liquid narcotic that eases heroin cravings without getting patients high, to treat addicts.

Over 100 supervised drug-injection sites have been set up in more than 50 cities around the world, including in Spain, Germany, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

Advocates of drug-injection sites say they help reduce crime, make it easier for addicts to get help and save lives by preventing heroin or cocaine users from sharing needles, which has been shown to increase HIV rates.

In 2004, the last year for which statistics are available, 152 people died in Portugal as a result of drug use, mostly as a result of overdoses, according to the health ministry.

Portugal decriminalised the use -- but not sale -- of all drugs from cannabis to cocaine in 2000. AFP