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Ex-Swiss president: War on drugs failed, treating addicts as patients will work

Martin Vengadesan, Rahmat Haron & Ramieza Wahid
Published:

INTERVIEW | Thirty years ago, Switzerland was facing a drug crisis. It had the highest HIV infection rate in Western Europe and up to 1,000 drug users gathered daily in Zurich’s infamous Platzspitz park, dubbed “needle park.”

Realising that the “war on drugs” was an almighty failure, Ruth Dreifuss (above), who was interior minister from 1993 to 2002, during which time she also served a year as Switzerland’s president, spearheaded a successful transformation of policies.

Swiss authorities authorised experiments such as syringe exchange programmes and safe injection rooms offering a shower, bed and hygienic conditions under medical supervision.

The innovative policy of providing drug addicts with free methadone and clean needles greatly reduced deaths while cutting crime rates...

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