The cuts to Portugal’s drug programme, combined with an increase in hard drug abuse, could be the beginning of a serious problem for this south European country.
Drug policy in Portugal is a distinct model for many countries across the world. (Norway and Argentina even considered implementing parts of the Portuguese model). Yet, due to budget cuts coupled with an increasing consumption of hard drugs, Portugal’s successful approach to tackle drug abuse may become unaffordable.
Joćo Goulćo, the country’s national drugs agency chief, stressed: “We have a certain responsibility to maintain basic services despite the recession ... we have already suffered some budget cuts, but maintained the essential intervention services. Now the budget for next year is drafted and ... I’m afraid it is inevitable that there will be more cuts."
The number of people who resorted to rehabilitation centres doubled last year to 14 per cent and looks set to rise further. Joćo Goulćo pointed as a probable cause for this increase of drug use the social and economic conditions that the country is enduring, such as the rise in unemployment.
Heroin is the most consumed drug because it is relatively cheaper. Mostly injected, it can spread blood-borne diseases such as HIV or hepatitis when users share the same syringe or needle - a practice that becomes more prevalent when money is tight.
The cuts to the Portuguese drug programme may prove to be a significant challenge for the country’s public health.
This article is a summary of a longer story published by Reuters:
Drug Problems in Europe
EU Drugs Strategy (2005-2012)
Council Conclusions on the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020
Trends in drug use across Europe
First European quality standards to improve drug prevention in the EU