Portugal’s drug abuse problem has never been as bad as it is now, according to the Association for a Drug-Free Portugal (APLD).
In the past few years alone, heroin abuse has shot up by 57.5% while overall use of Class A and Class B drugs has rocketed by 66%.
The APLD figures seem to directly contradict official statistics that suggest Portugal’s drug problem has not got worse.
Between 2001, the date in which a law decriminalising drug use in Portugal came into force, and 2007, drug abuse has spiralled out of control.
In that period, there has been a 215% increase in cocaine abuse, an 85% increase in ecstasy use, and a 37% hike in cannabis smoking.
And these statistics were released by the Institute of Drugs and Drug Addiction (IDT- Instituto de Droga e Toxicodependência) in November 2008.
A 50% increase in drug abuse across the board was registered in the 20-24 age groups, while the percentage of people experimenting with illicit drugs at least once climbed by 7.8% in 2001 and jumped up to 12% in 2007.
Portugal also suffers a high death rate from HIV and AIDS related illnesses, higher than Estonia, Spain, Lithuania and Italy (Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction – OEDT, Annual Report 2010).
According to the Portuguese Institute of Legal Medicine, the number of deceased with non-treatment drugs found on autopsy in 2007 alone stood at 314, an increase of 45% on 2006.
The number of murders committed under the influence of drugs has also increased by 40%.
Manuel Pinto Coelho, President of APLD, said: “It is extremely worrying that at a time when the complete legalisation of drugs is being considered, that these statistics show that this is proving to do more harm than good. What we’re talking about is completely misleading information.”