Drugs in Portugal: “There have never been so many” – official

Portugal “following international trends of consumption”

There has never before been so much availability of drugs in Portugal. The statement comes from João Goulão, director general of SICAD, Portugal’s interventional service in addictive behaviours and addictions, who warns that this “multitude of new substances” poses the added headache of how to deal with people who take them “in combination”.

Speaking to the Lusa news agency about data released on Friday by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in the European Drug Report 2023: Trends and Developments, Goulão said there are now “so many people using psychoactive substances (…) They are present everywhere (…) there are various mixtures, using legal and illegal substances and medicines“.

This trend could have something to do with “the difficult times” Europe is going through – with a war in progress after a pandemic, as well as the economic crisis, with consequent impacts on mental health, he said – admitting drug use in Portugal is on the same lines as it is throughout Europe, and beyond.

Cannabis as the psychoactive substance most used, cannabis products with enormous variety, with the addition or not of synthetic cannabinoids, then the use of stimulants, in which cocaine is the second most used drug.” 

Yes, there has been a stabilisation in the use of opiates such as heroin – and there are no signs of a “resurgence of its use”. But there is still “a very large heroin-using population” and the “multitude of new substances that are being used alone or in combination”, from new psychoactive substances, substances such as Ecstasy,“very common in recreational contexts”, or dissociative drugs, such as Ketamine.

Regarding the challenges these new trends represent, Goulão recalled Portugal has a structure set up to deal with a “more or less catastrophic” situation of heroin use, but the reality today is different and goes beyond the use of opiates.

In other words, in Goulão’s opinion, effective ways of addressing new trends (like the simultaneous use of several drugs) are needed, to minimise risks and the damage caused.

Equally, “we must be more effective in preventing consumption and offer effective forms of treatment for these situations, (namely) by offering mental health care”, he told Lusa, stressing “the challenges are not exactly new” but they do require greater efficiency.

Portugal has managed to adapt resources to the different challenges and, in legislative terms, the country has decriminalised drug use, which has placed Portugal “at the forefront of the approach to these issues”, he said. It  has had “a very positive impact on the effectiveness of the system set up”.

But the system can only work if it has enough human resources, which, he told Lusa, “is currently the major limitation”.

Source material: LUSA