Drugs crisis 'needs open-minded and creative' action
STV News has been to Portugal, where personal use of drugs was decriminalised in 2001.
An "open-minded and creative" response is needed to reverse Scotland's growing drugs crisis, a senior MP has said.
More than 1100 drug-related deaths were recorded in Scotland last year, it was revealed this week, with the total more than doubling in a decade.
That has prompted widespread calls for bold action in a bid to reverse the trend, such as decriminalisation.
STV News visited Portugal, where personal use of illegal substances was decriminalised in 2001.
In a country which once had the highest rate of death from drug overdoses in Europe, there has been a significant drop since then.
Members of the Scottish Affairs Committee have been there and in Germany this week to study their approaches to tackling drug deaths.
Its chair, SNP MP Pete Wishart, believes an "open-minded and creative" approach is needed in Scotland, where drugs policy is reserved to the UK Government.
He said: "What we've seen in the past few months is the Scottish public is no longer prepared to put up with what they are observing in terms of the numbers of drugs deaths.
"They are saying there must be other solutions to this instead of just doing the same things again and again and again.
"I'm beginning to detect the public are maybe just starting to get ahead of the government in terms of their thinking about this."
Drugs held a firm grip over Portugal in the 1990s - those who remember that time say addiction cut across all social classes and ravaged families.
The government took radical action, becoming the first country to stop making possession of drugs - everything from cannabis to heroin - illegal.
Its war on drugs switched its focus to health and the welfare of individuals caught up in a vicious cycle, classing addiction as a disease and offering treatment, rather than a crime.
Since 2001, rates of fatal overdoses and infections have plummeted to among the lowest in Europe.
Dr Joao Goulao, director of SICAD, the government agency which oversees drugs policy, is a key figure behind the Portuguese approach.
He believes Scotland could also benefit from decriminalisation as part of a wider range of measures.
"It's not a silver bullet," Dr Goulao told STV News. "It's not the solution in itself, but it facilitates all the activities on the health and social side that in my view are the key elements to dealing with those problems.
"Having so high a rate of overdose deaths, as was the case here in Portugal 20 years ago, I believe there is a window of opportunity for an in-depth discussion and perhaps the momentum to take brave decisions."
MPs from the Scottish Affairs Committee visited one of two mobile methadone vans which have operated in Lisbon since 1998.
They stop at five locations across the city at fixed times, offering addicts the heroin substitute, between them helping around 1200 people every day.
They also hand out clean needles and contraception, while doctors are on hand to screen for infection including HIV and Tuberculosis.
Hugo Faria is a psychologist who manages the programme and believes the facts prove its value.
He said: "20 years ago, right here in Lisbon, in the first group we met in this programme we had more than 55% with HIV.
"Now we have 13% with HIV in our programme so it's a huge difference. Everyone has the right to be treated for a chronic disease like addiction.
"Since decriminalisation we can work with police and with hospitals and with courts. To have the resources to help these people does not increase drug use. That is not true."