When marijuana and then heroin began flooding in, the country was utterly unprepared.
Pereira tackled the growing wave of addiction the only way he knew how: one patient at a time.
Diseases including hepatitis C, cirrhosis and liver cancer are a burden on a health system that is still struggling to recover from recession and cutbacks.
In this way, Portugal’s story serves as a warning of challenges yet to come.
The official policy of decriminalisation made it far easier for a broad range of services (health, psychiatry, employment, housing etc) that had been struggling to pool their resources and expertise, to work together more effectively to serve their communities. Those who had been referred to sneeringly as (junkies) – became known more broadly, more sympathetically, and more accurately, as “people who use drugs” or “people with addiction disorders”. It is important to note that Portugal stabilised its opioid crisis, but it didn’t make it disappear.
While drug-related death, incarceration and infection rates plummeted, the country still had to deal with the health complications of long-term problematic drug use.
When the regime ended abruptly in a military coup in 1974, Portugal was suddenly opened to new markets and influences.