Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Drug decriminalisation in Portugal

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 10 September 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4554

Rapid Response:

Drug decriminalisation in Portugal

Andrade and Carapinha paint a rosy picture of drug decriminalisation
in Portugal based on their own unreferenced data. But other sources are
less supportive of their conclusions.

According to Special Registry of the National Institute of Forensic
Medicine, there has actually been an increase in drug related deaths in
Portugal since these measures were enacted, from 280 in 2001 to 314 in
2007. In approximately 55 % of cases, opiates or opiates in combination
with other substances (mainly cocaine or alcohol) were cited as the main
substance involved.

Furthermore, the 2009 UNODC World Drug Report says that "Portugal was
the only European country to show a significant increase in [drug related]
homicides between 2001 and 2006" which increased by forty percent over a
five year period.

Finally, in its 2008 report, the Instituto da Droga e da
Toxicodepend?ncia stated that the overall prevalence of life time drug use
had increased from 7.8% to 12.0% in the period from 2001 to 2007 with that
of cocaine more than doubling and Ecstasy close to doubling. The
prevalence of heroin abuse went from 0.7% of the adult population to 1.1%.

Hardly the resounding success claimed by the authors, who are still
very unclear as to the exact source of their data and in particular their
mortality statistics.

Competing interests: No competing interests

05 October 2010
Nigel Keegan
Medical practitioner
None given