Portuguese teens are Europe’s top young consumers of sedatives and tranquillizers

An alarming new study of young people in Europe has concluded that Portuguese school-age teens show “very high levels of consumption of medically-prescribed tranquillizers and sedatives”.

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) shows that while 35 countries register an 8% average for youngsters on psychoactive substances, Portugal leads the way with 13%.

It is news that comes as no surprise to health chiefs who warn of long-term consequences, reports Público.

The inquiry questioned 96,043 teens who had celebrated their 16th birthdays in 2015.

A total of 3,456 were Portuguese in state education, says the paper, stressing that in global terms, Portugal was either below or in line with European averages.

The exceptions were two areas: “the positive news is that Portuguese consume very much less new psychoactive substances than most young Europeans”, says Público, “but the negative refers to the consumption of medically prescribed antidepressants and tranquillizers.

“Here young Portuguese are only overtaken by Lithuanians, whose consumption at 16% is double the European average.”

DGS mental health programme coordinator Álvaro de Carvalho has said he is far from surprised by the findings, but very concerned.

“The maturity of the central nervous system in general terms only concludes when people reach adulthood,” he explains. “There are strong suspicions and some scientific evidence that the consumption of psychotropic substances can interfere with this process. Thus a child or teen who consumes amphetamines or benzodiazepines could find his or her development in cognitive and emotional terms compromised.”

Carvalho also outlined the problem in this country of an acute lack of psychotherapists in the health system – another reason perhaps for the “high levels of prescription drugs” handed out to young people.