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Published on Sep 7, 2007
March 2006 At the instigation of President Ahmadinejad, Iran's theocratic government has adopted a surprising drugs policy. It's radical and stands in stark contrast to many Western drugs policies.
In a squalid back alley in Tehran, addicts are shooting up. "I have no hope in my life any more", despairs one. Iran has the highest heroin addiction rate in the world. No other country even comes close. Back in the days of Ayatollah Khomeini, addicts were executed. But faced with an HIV epidemic, the current government has adopted a more enlightened approach. "People think the current government is more conservative and fundamentalist. But it supports our programmes much more than previous governments", states drugs counsellor, Bijan Nassirimanesh. Addicts are now treated as patients not criminals. The state subsidises free syringes, medical care and treatment programmes. "The needle exchange programme has massively brought down the number of HIV cases", praises one addict. And it's a policy that has the long term support of Ahmadinejad. "When Ahmadinejad was mayor of Tehran, he ordered the city authorities to build 40 drop-in centres. Now that he's President, he's always talking about methadone treatment."