Photographer: Gonçalo Fonseca
Title: How Portugal Won the War on Drugs
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Period: 01/2020 - 07/2021
Category: Solutions

Since Nixon declared the War on Drugs, millions of men and women have been incarcerated. In 2020 alone, more than a million people were arrested in the US, many for possessing only a small amount of the substances for personal consumption.

Meanwhile, for the last two decades, Portugal has been conducting a radical social experiment, after deciding to decriminalize the consumption of all drugs. In 2001, facing a heroin epidemic, where an estimated 1% of its population was using heroin, lawmakers decided to invest in harm reduction strategies and began treating people with addiction as patients who needed help, not as criminals who should be persecuted.

Now, twenty years on, Decriminalization was a success, and the rest of the globe seems to be catching on. Just last November, the state of Oregon passed a similar law, in what amounted to a powerful rebuff to the war on drugs.


Two outreach workers a psycologist right and a former addict left talk to Miguel as he smokes heroin at an abandoned house in Lumiar Lisbon 3 11 2020


A view of Olaias Lisbon from Crescer s car For the past 20 years two outreach teams made up of psychologists social workers and nurses have traveled to Lisbon s many squalid and dark places where addicts use 4 12 2020


Two outreach workers for Crescer an outreach organization pick up discarded syringes at Avenida de Ceuta Lisbon 11 12 2020


A man prepares a shot of Dormicum an ansiolitic in Avenida de Ceuta Lisbon For the past 20 years two outreach teams made up of psychologists social workers and nurses have traveled to Lisbon s many squalid and dark places where addicts use 16 02 2021


In s Marinho an outreach worker and nurse takes a blood sample to test for Hepatitis C 27 04 2021


A man walks through Quinta da Cabrinha one of the two public housing neighborhoods built after Casal Ventoso Europe s largest drug supermarket was demolished in the 90 s Lisbon 16 02 2021


Martinho Dias an outreach worker for Crescer poses for a portrait He used drugs for almost 20 years Four years ago after seeing the work of the outreach teams on TV he decided to make it his life s mission to help those who are fighting the same problem as he is 20 04 2021


I have been trying to escape this life but it s very hard says Pedro a 30-year old man at Pra a de Espanha one of the daily stops for the Ares do Pinhal methadone truck in Lisbon Portugal The methadone helps but ultimately it has to come from me 09 02 2017


Carlos a 42 year old addict on his way to a government funded Therapeutic Community in northern Portugal For long term addicts the only way out is to go and get treatment somewhere far away distant from their daily routines and substance abuse says Andreia from the Crescer NGO 31 01 2017


A man takes a nap at the Ares do Pinhal Therapeutic Community Psychological addition is a life long struggle It is something our patients will have to deal with their entire lives says Dr Paulo Lopes the president of this NGO


Patients at Ares do Pinhal Therapeutic Comunity joke around 30 03 2017


When I got here two months ago I had to undress myself for the medical checkup The doctor looked at me and said You truly are a human skeleton You got here just in time he recalls while patting his new formed belly in the locker room before his weekly hydro gymnastics class 30 03 2021