Why is Portugal’s Unique Drug Policy Working?

1st August 2020

From the late 80’s up until the early 2000’s Portugal experienced an alarming health problem among its citizens. There was a significantly high ratio of Portuguese population living with HIV, having contracted it from drug-related usage. This figure wasn’t just the highest in the European Union but was also rising fast. The infection situation put a huge dent on an otherwise prosperous period in Portugal’s history.

Many nations have attempted to control this social vice throughout history. You can find out the different methods civilizations have tackled substance abuse through a war on drugs essay online. In modern history, Portugal’s story is eye-catching due to the unprecedented level of success they enjoy when you consider the available data.

The Portuguese government had to draft up a drug policy to keep the rate of substance use at bay, but many critics in and out of the nation felt this new law would do more harm than good. Fast forward just two decades into the future, and Portugal’s drug issues are all but a distant memory. What is the drug policy and why is it working effectively? This write-up provides you with ample information on these questions and information about Portugal’s drug legalisation policy.

Drug addiction

What Caused the High Infection Rate

Before the introduction of heroin into Portugal, it was just recovering from the ill effects of an authoritative government. Antonio Salzar’s had seen the nation shot away from the rest of the world cultures and also an intense dwindling of literacy levels among its citizens. Education in the land had taken a massive hit as the ruling government of 1933 — 1974 was determined to keep the population docile.

After a successful military coup and the overthrowing of this authoritative government, the Portuguese were introduced to new outside influences. Licenses were relaxed and foreign products once again became a staple in the country, but so also did a deadly vice, heroine. An addiction to this became rampant and many individuals started getting HIV infections from using shared needles.

What’s the Portugal Drug Policy

The government of Portugal drafted its drug policy in 2000, but it only became legal in July 2001. This new order decreed the decriminalisation of all illicit substances. If citizens were found with drugs for personal use, one or all of the following actions will ensue.

  • Written a warning;
  • Charged with a fine; or
  • Directed to seek professional advice from a local commission.

The local commission usually ranges from lawyers, doctors, and social workers. Their job is to help the offender with information about treatment and harm reduction. These groups would also offer up knowledge of an available support service suitable for you.

Why it’s Successful

Many economists cite Portugal’s success in combating drug use to law reform, but on closer inspection, one finds that there’s more to the nation’s outstanding achievement than just a new decree.

Cultural Reform

The public view of individuals of people using drugs has shifted to one of care and empathy. Society became conscious of the issues people with addiction disorders faced thanks to awareness programs. Consider reading a drug addiction essay on Study Driver to acquaint yourself with some of these adverse impacts. Knowledge is critical to helping society understand how to provide the necessary care for drug users.

Allocation of More Funds to Health Sectors

To support its drug policies, the Portuguese government also increased its funding to the health sector. They created and improved social and reintegration programs to help individuals using illicit substances. In a country with an amazing parade of prevention, treatment, and harm reduction initiatives, it’s of little wonder why it experienced a sharp decline in drug-related health issues.

For years, public and private health services had battled with keeping the law and giving its patients the care and advice they need. The arrival of Portugal’s drug policy removed such constraints, allowing these medical practitioners to deliver the required support and well-being to society. Thanks to the government’s backing they had the needed resources and expertise to effectively assist people with addiction disorders.

Better Standards of Living

During the period of implementing the Portugal drug decriminalisation policy, the government also introduced another package to society, the Portuguese wellness state. This decision played a crucial role in achieving the nation’s success, as citizens were now entitled to a minimum income and an improved living standard.

Economic Situations Since the Implementation of the Portugal Drug Policy

What has happened to society and the economy since the government decided to legalize all drugs? Here are the critical points.

  • Reduced drug use among teenagers and young adults

This age demographic is the most susceptible to being introduced to substance abuse.

  • Decreased rate of drug use among the general population

There’s a lower rate of substance use among the general population since the government’s policy to legalize all drugs in Portugal. This figure is also significantly lower than the European average.

  • Reduced rate of new HIV infections among drug users

This figure stood at 56 in 2012 but was at an alarming high of 1016 in 2001.

  • Lower rates of drug-related deaths

Deaths resulting directly from drug use stood at 16 in 2012. It fell by approximately 64 units from its 80 in 2001

  • Lower drug-related crime rates and reduced prison population

Since the implementation of the Portugal drug policy, there’s been a significant reduction in drug-related crime rates. In 2000, the number stood at 14000  but now ranges between 5600 — 6000. There’s also a decrease in the prison population, this figure fell from 44% in 1999 to just under 21% in 2012.

Group of friends


Many critics feared that Portugal’s drug decriminalisation would bring about a rapid increase in substance abuse, but after two decades there’s no data to prove such a relation. Portugal isn’t the only nation to tow this road but they’ve arguably been the most successful in bringing down their numbers. They owe their success thanks to creating awareness, backing up th6 health sector and social reform economy, improving standards of living, and having a society that accepts and is willing to give drug users the care they need.


Related Stories