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Portugal country overview — a summary of the national drug situation



Portugal country overview
A summary of the national drug situation

Map of Portugal

Our partner in Portugal

The Portuguese national focal point is located within the General-Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (SICAD). Attached to the Ministry of Health, SICAD’s mission is to promote a reduction in the use of psychoactive substances, the prevention of addictive behaviours and a reduction in dependencies.Read more »

Serviço de Intervenção nos Comportamentos Aditivos e nas Dependências (SICAD)

Avenida da República, n°61-8°
P - 1064-808 Lisboa
Tel. +351 211119000
Fax +351 211112790 to 98

Head of focal point: Mr João Goulão

Our partner in Portugal

Serviço de Intervenção nos Comportamentos Aditivos e nas Dependências (SICAD)

Avenida da República, n°61-8°
P - 1064-808 Lisboa
Tel. +351 211119000
Fax +351 211112790 to 98

Head of focal point: Mr João Goulão

The Portuguese national focal point is located within the General-Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (SICAD). Attached to the Ministry of Health, SICAD’s mission is to promote a reduction in the use of psychoactive substances, the prevention of addictive behaviours and a reduction in dependencies.
SICAD is the EMCDDA’s national focal point and it is directly responsible for the implementation of the National Plan. It plans, implements and coordinates drug demand reduction interventions, and collects, analyses and disseminates information on drug use and its responses.
The Director General of SICAD is also the National Coordinator for Drugs, Drug Addiction and Alcohol-Related Problems.

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Drug use among the general population and young people

The first general population survey on drug use was conducted in Portugal in 2001 on a sample of 15 000 individuals representative of the Portuguese population. The second general population survey was conducted in 2007 on a sample of 12 202. In 2012, a third general population survey was conducted on a sample of 5 355 inhabitants aged 15–64. Although cannabis remains the most frequently used illicit substance, followed by ecstasy and cocaine, the latest study indicates that the use of illicit substances in Portugal since 2007 might be on the decline (lifetime prevalence of any illicit substance among adults was 12.0 % in 2007 and 9.5 % in 2012; among young adults in 2007 it was 17.4 % and in 2012 it was 14.5 %). In 2012 about 9.4 % of 15- to 64-year-olds had ever tried cannabis, 2.7 % had used cannabis in the last 12 month and 1.7 % in the past month, compared to 2007 when cannabis use prevalence rates were reported at 11.7 %, 3.6 % and 2.4 % respectively. Ecstasy and cocaine have emerged as the second and third most prevalent illicit substances, with lifetime prevalence rates at 1.3 % and 1.2 %, and broader differentiation in prevalence rates among young adults is noted. Use of illicit substances in general is more prevalent among 15- to 34-year-olds. The latest study indicates a slight increase in recent use of LSD among all adults, and also among 15- to 34-year-olds; however, the overall prevalence of LSD remains low. All studies confirmed that males more frequently than females use illicit substances; however, there are some indications that females present higher continuity rates for cannabis, ecstasy and hallucinogenic mushrooms use than men. The latest study also examined prevalence of non-controlled new psychoactive substances. In 2012 around 0.4 % of all respondents and 0.9 % of young adults reported trying a new psychoactive substance at least once in their lifetime.

Surveys among schoolchildren are currently carried out in Portugal nearly every two years: the National School Survey (Inquérito Nacional em Meio Escolar, INME) was carried out in 2001 and 2006 (a previous version of this survey was done in 1989 and 1995); and the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) has been completed every four years since 1995 (with students aged 15–16). The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey is repeated every four years in Portugal and targets young people in school settings (6th, 8th and 10th grades).

In 2006 results from the national studies of school populations showed a decrease in drug consumption between 2002–06 (HBSC) and 2001–06 (INME). Cannabis maintained its position as the drug with the highest prevalence of use. The latest HBSC study from 2009/10 indicated an increase in the prevalence of cannabis use in the period 2006–10.

The ESPAD survey results for 2011 showed that lifetime prevalence of cannabis use was 16 % (13 % in 2007; 15 % in 2003; 8 % in 1999). Lifetime prevalence for inhalants was 6 % (4 % in 2007; 8 % in 2003; 3 % in 1999), and for all other substances lifetime prevalence was reported at 3 %. The results indicated 16 % for last year prevalence of cannabis use (10 % in 2007; 13 % in 2003; 9 % in 1999), and 9 % for last month prevalence (6 % in 2007; 8 % in 2003; 5 % in 1999). Despite the downward trend observed during 2002–06, the most recent ESPAD study corroborates the findings of the HBSC study, showing an increase in consumption of illicit substances since 2006. This trend is observed among both male and female students.

Look for Prevalence of drug use in the 'Statistical bulletin' for more information  

High-risk drug use

Up to 2012 the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) defined problem drug use as injecting drug use (IDU) or long duration/regular use of opiates, cocaine and/or amphetamines. However, in 2012 a new definition of ‘high-risk drug use’ was adopted. The new definition includes ‘problem drug use’, but is broader (mainly in its inclusion of high-risk use of more substances). Details are available here.

Portugal has carried out four multiplier-method estimates based on 2005 data, which were then compared to previous estimates based on 2000 data. The size of the population of long-term and/or regular users of opiates, cocaine and/or amphetamines was estimated to be between 4.3 and 5.0 per 1 000 inhabitants aged 15–64 (30 833–35 576 individuals), using an outreach team multiplier in 2005. A broader definition, not restricting the population to long-term and regular users, calculated using a treatment multiplier, suggested a higher rate of 6.2–7.4 cases per 1 000 aged 15–64. Injecting drug users were estimated at 1.8–2.2 per 1 000 inhabitants aged 15–64 using a treatment multiplier, and 1.5–3.0 per 1 000 inhabitants aged 15–64 using a mortality multiplier. The comparison with 2000 data indicated a decline in the estimated number of high-risk drug users and injecting drug users between the years 2000 and 2005.

Based on general population survey data from 2012, it has been estimated that approximately 0.5 % of 15- to 64-year-olds used cannabis daily or almost daily.

Look for High risk drug-use in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Treatment demand

Treatment demand data in Portugal is collected through the outpatient public network via the Multidisciplinary Information System (SIM), which was launched in 2010. The SIM enables treatment demand data to be collected from all 78 outpatient public treatment centres across Portugal. In 2013 a total of 4 138 clients entered treatment, of which 1 983 were new clients entering treatment for the first time.

The primary drug of abuse among all treatment clients was opioids, mainly heroin, at 54 %, followed by cannabis at 27 % and cocaine at 13 %. Among new treatment clients, 48 % reported cannabis, followed by 27 % for opioids, and 17 % for cocaine. In the most recent years an upward trend in the proportion new treatment clients reporting cannabis or cocaine as their primary substance of concern has been noted for Portugal. Overall, about 14 % of all treatment clients who reported an injectable substance as their primary drug used them by injection, and the rate among new treatment clients was even smaller at 8 %. The mean age of all treatment clients was 36 years, while new treatment clients were on average 31 years old. With respect to gender, 88 % of all and 87 % of new treatment clients were males.

Look for Treatment demand indicator in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Drug-related infectious diseases

In Portugal, global estimates of the prevalence of infectious diseases among drug users are not available. However, some data based on clients of some treatment facilities are available, and these can provide information on rates among some sub-groups of drug users: (i) those demanding treatment for the first time at the public network of outpatient treatment facilities; (ii) those admitted to public detoxification treatment units or certified private detoxification units; or (iii) those in treatment in public or certified private therapeutic communities.

In 2013, some 17.1 % of drug users who ever injected drugs and were treated at outpatient treatment services were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive. For the injecting drug users admitted to the same treatment environment, the rate of acute hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection (399 tested) was 6.3 %, and for hepatitis C virus (HCV) the rate was 84.3 % (414 tested). When interpreting these results, the fact that the sample of tested drug users at various services is not always representative of the group should be taken into consideration. It should also be mentioned that some of the treatment samples included people who inject drugs (PWID) and people who do not inject drugs, and consequently the rates only calculated among PWID will probably be higher than those presented.

In general, a decreasing trend in the total number of notifications of HIV and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) cases has continued to be registered since the early 2000s. In 2013 a total of 1 093 new HIV and 322 new AIDS cases were reported, for all risk groups together. Likewise, a decline in the incidence of HIV and AIDS with injecting drugs as the risk group has also been registered since 1999–2000 (78 new HIV cases in 2013 and 1 482 in 2000; 74 new AIDS cases in 2013 and 675 in 1999).

Look for Drug-related infectious diseases in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Drug-induced deaths and mortality among drug users

There are two sources of information about drug-related deaths in Portugal: the General Mortality Registry of the Statistics National Institute, and the Special Registry of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine.

In 2012, the General Mortality Registry of the Statistics National Institute registered 16 cases of drug-related deaths, which is an increase on the 10 deaths reported in 2011 but remains below the number of deaths registered annually between 2008–10.

Provisional data from the Special Registry of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine show 22 drug-related death cases (selection D) in 2013 (29 in 2012; 19 in 2011; 52 in 2010; 56 in 2009; 94 in 2008). In 2013 the majority of deaths occurred among men, at a mean age of 42 years. All the provisionally reported drug-related death cases were toxicologically confirmed and around 72 % involved opioids (heroin or methadone). More than one substance was involved in more than two-thirds of all deaths.

The drug-induced mortality rate among adults (aged 15–64) was 3.0 deaths per million in 2012, lower than the current (2013) European average of 17.2 deaths per million.

Look for Drug-related deaths in the Statistical bulletin for more information.  

Treatment responses

Healthcare for drug users is organised in Portugal mainly through the public network services of treatment for illicit substance dependence, under Regional Health Administrations of the Ministry of Health. In addition to public services, certification and protocols between non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other public or private treatment services ensure a wide access to quality-controlled services encompassing several treatment modalities. The public services are provided free of charge and are accessible to all drug users who seek treatment.

Drug treatment in Portugal can be classified into four main categories: (i) outpatient drug treatment; (ii) day-care centres; (iii) detoxification units; and (iv) therapeutic communities. Treatment teams, mainly in outpatient units, are usually entry points for the clients, where a client’s situation is assessed and the treatment plan is designed. From there, referrals are made to public or private detoxification units or therapeutic communities. All centres provide both psychosocial and substitution treatment. Day-care centres offering outpatient care are provided by public and non-governmental services. Withdrawal treatment is available in public and private detoxification units. Inpatient psychosocial treatment mostly consists of therapeutic communities and is mainly available in private services. Short-term and long-term residential psychosocial drug treatment is also available. There are 61 specialised treatment facilities (public and certified private therapeutic communities), eight detoxification units, 78 public outpatient facilities and eight accredited day-care centres. Although treatment of opioid addiction remains a main focus of the drug treatment system, during the period 2005–10 special programmes for cannabis and cocaine users have also been created.

Continuous efforts are also taken to systematise the best practice experience and promote new treatment approaches. Thus in 2011 guidelines defining the early treatment of youth at risk and adolescent users and on treatment and rehabilitation in a therapeutic community were published.

Opioid substitution treatment (OST) is widely available in Portugal through public services such as specialised treatment centres, health centres, hospitals, pharmacies, NGOs and non-profit organisations. Methadone has been available since 1977, buprenorphine since 1999, and the buprenorphine/naloxone combination has recently been approved for use.

Decree Law 183/2001 Article 44.1 and Decree Law 15/93 Article 15.1–3 stipulate that methadone treatment can be initiated by treatment centres, and that buprenorphine treatment can be initiated by any medical doctor, specialised medical doctors and treatment centres. The provision of buprenorphine in pharmacies started in 2004.

In 2013, some 16 858 clients were registered in opioid substitution programmes (29 325 in 2010), 67 % of whom were in methadone maintenance treatment and the remaining 33 % in high-dosage buprenorphine treatment. OST is also available in prison settings.

See the Treatment profile for Portugal for additional information.  

Harm reduction responses

The main priority established by the National Plan Against Drugs and Drug Addictions 2013–20 in the area of risk and harm reduction is to promote and develop the existing risk and harm reduction intervention model and to adapt it to the evolution of the drug use phenomenon through promotion of effective and integrated responses.

A network of harm reduction programmes (syringe exchange, low-threshold substitution programmes, etc.) and structures, including drop-in centres, refuges, shelters, contact units and mobile centres, has been consolidated throughout the country in critical zones of intensive drug use, with the aim of preventing drug-related risks such as infectious diseases, social exclusion and delinquency.

The National Commission for the Fight Against AIDS (Comissão Nacional de Luta Contra a SIDA), in cooperation with the National Association of Pharmacies (Associação Nacional de Farmácias), implements the national needle and syringe programme Say No to a Second-Hand Syringe, which was set up more than twenty years ago to prevent HIV amongst IDUs. The programme involves pharmacies, primary care health centres and NGOs, and includes several mobile units. At the end of 2012 the contract with the Association ended and the programme was implemented in the following years by health centres and NGOs alone. However, following the signing of a new agreement with the Association in 2014, pharmacies have re-initiated the programme. Approximately 51.5 million syringes have been given out under this programme between its launch in October 1993 and December 2013. In 2013 some 951 000 syringes were distributed by the programme. Overall trends in syringe exchange show an increase in syringe numbers until 2001 (3.5 million), followed by stabilisation at a lower level (2.7 million) until 2005, and a decline thereafter. An evaluation of the programme in 2002 concluded that it had been successful in preventing HIV infections among people who inject drugs. Districts such as Lisbon, Porto, Setúbal and Faro are places with a higher number of exchanged syringes, and have taken part in the programme since it started. In addition to needles, syringes and other injecting paraphernalia, the programmes also provide information services, psychosocial support and referrals, while pipes for inhalative drug use are being distributed in a pilot project.

Treatments for HIV and AIDS, HBV and HCV are included in the range of services of the National Health Service of Portugal and are available free of charge.

See the Harm reduction overview for Portugal for additional information.  

Drug markets and drug-law offences

Portugal remains an important transit point of international drug trafficking, mainly for cocaine, while a large proportion of other drugs seized in Portugal are destined for the local market. The majority of illicit substances enter Portugal via sea routes, while land (from Spain) and air routes are used to a lesser extent. The postal service has emerged as the preferred transportation route for ecstasy. In 2013, most cocaine was trafficked from Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela. Heroin and ecstasy seized in Portugal comes from the Netherlands and cannabis products come from Morocco. As in the previous 10 years, the highest number of seizures involved cannabis resin (3 087 in 2013; 3 298 in 2012; 3 093 in 2011), followed by cocaine and heroin (1 108 and 792 respectively). The number of herbal cannabis (liamba) and ecstasy seizures continued to be lower than for the other illicit drugs. The numbers of heroin and cocaine seizures continued to decline in 2013 and were the lowest registered since 2002 and 2005 respectively.

In 2013, there was an increase in the quantity of herbal cannabis (liamba) and cannabis plants seized compared to 2012 (95.71 kg of liamba and 8 462 cannabis plants in 2013). The quantity of cannabis resin and cocaine halved when compared to 2012 (18 304 kg in 2012 and 8 681 kg in 2013 for cannabis resin; 4 020 kg in 2012 and 2 440 kg in 2013 for cocaine). In 2013 the amounts of ecstasy and heroin seized were lower than in previous years. It is worth mentioning that a record 4.39 kg of methamphetamine was seized in 2013, in a single seizure when the substance was passing through Lisbon Airport in transit to other European Union countries.

In 2013, a total of 14 288 people were reported to be involved in drug-law offences. The majority of drug-law offenders were linked to cannabis-related offences, followed by cocaine-related offences and heroin-related offences. 

Look for Drug law offences in the Statistical bulletin for additional data.  

National drug laws

The main drug law in Portugal is Decree Law 15/93 of 22 January 1993, which defines the legal regime applicable to the trafficking and consumption of narcotic drugs and psychoactive substances.

The Portuguese legal framework on drugs changed in November 2000 with the adoption of Law 30/2000, in place since July 2001, which decriminalised illicit drug use and related acts, but maintained drug use as an illegal behaviour, with respect to all drugs included in the relevant United Nations conventions. However, a person caught using or possessing a small quantity of drugs for personal use (established by law, this shall not exceed the quantity required for average individual consumption over a period of 10 days), where there is no suspicion of involvement in drug trafficking, will be evaluated by a local Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, composed of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. Sanctions can be applied, but the main objective is to explore the need for treatment and to promote healthy recovery.

Drug trafficking may incur a sentence of 1–5 or 4–12 years’ imprisonment, depending on specific criteria, one of them being the nature of the substance supplied. The penalty is reduced for users who sell drugs to finance their own consumption.

A new Decree Law 54/2013 was adopted in April 2013. It prohibits the production, export, advertisement, distribution, sale or simple dispensing of new psychoactive substances (NPS) named in the list accompanying the Decree Law and sets up a control mechanism for NPS. Administrative sanctions including fines of up to EUR 45 000 are anticipated for offences against this law, while a person caught using NPS, without a suspicion of another offence, is referred to a local Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction.

Go to the European Legal Database on Drugs (ELDD) for additional information.  

National drug strategy

Portuguese drug policy is detailed in three strategic documents. Launched in 1999 and envisaged as a long-term policy document, the National Strategy for the Fight Against Drugs defines the general objectives in the drugs field. The strategy is built around eight principles: (i) international cooperation; (ii) prevention; (iii) the humanistic principle; (iv) pragmatism; (v) security; (vi) coordination and rationalisation of resources; (vii) subsidiarity; and (viii) participation. Six general objectives are set out in the strategy:

  1. To contribute to an appropriate and efficient international and European strategy for the world drug problem, with regard to demand and supply reduction and which includes the fight against illicit trafficking and money laundering.
  2. To provide Portuguese society with better information about the phenomenon of drugs and drug addiction, and the dangers of particular drugs, from a preventive perspective.
  3. To reduce the use of drugs, especially among younger members of the population.
  4. To guarantee the necessary resources for treatment and social reintegration of drug addicts.
  5. To protect public health and the security of people and property.
  6. To repress the illicit traffic of drugs and money laundering.

These objectives are elaborated through a set of 13 strategic options.

Portugal’s current National Plan for the Reduction of Addictive Behaviours and Dependences 2013–20 builds on the principles of the 1999 strategy and the external evaluation of the National Plan Against Drugs and Drug Addiction 2005–12. It takes a broad and integrated view of drug and addiction problems and addresses a range of areas, including illicit drug use, new psychoactive substances, alcohol, prescription medications, doping, and gambling. The National Plan is guided by five overarching objectives:

  1. Prevent, deter, reduce and minimise the problems associated with the consumption of psychoactive substances, addictive behaviours and dependencies.
  2. Reduce the availability of illicit drugs and new psychoactive substances.
  3. Ensure the availability, sale and consumption of legal psychoactive substances is safe and does not induce harmful use.
  4. Ensure legal gambling is safe and does not induce addictive behaviour.
  5. Ensure the quality of services provided to citizens and the sustainability of policies and interventions.

The National Plan is built around the two pillars of drug demand reduction and drug supply reduction. It consists of two structural measures (the Operational Plan of Integrated Responses (PORI); and the referral network); and four transversal themes (information and research; training and communication; international relations and cooperation; and quality). Under the demand reduction pillar, the strategy is conceptualised around the lifecycle of the individual based on eleven age brackets. Strategic action under the supply reduction pillar is centred on reducing illicit drug markets and regulating licit gambling. The National Plan defines a set of indicators and targets to be achieved during the strategy’s timeframe.

The National Plan is being implemented through two action plans covering the periods 2013–16 and 2017–20.


Coordination mechanism in the field of drugs

An integrated approach is taken towards the coordination of policy on licit and illicit drugs in Portugal. After the adoption of a National Plan for the Reduction of Alcohol-Related Problems, the Interministerial Council for Drugs, Drug Addiction and Alcohol Related Problems approved extending the existing scope of the collective coordination structures in the drugs field. This resulted in the creation of the National Coordination Structure for Drugs, Drug Addiction and Alcohol-related Problems, as expressed in Decree-Law 40/2010 of 28 April 2010. Accordingly, the monitoring of action plans on licit and illicit drugs, their evaluation and policy development in general now takes place in an integrated manner.

Several structures comprise the National Coordination Structure for Drugs, Drug Addiction and Alcohol-Related Problems. At an interministerial level, the overall responsibility for the endorsement, coordination and evaluation of drug policy rests with the Interministerial Council for Drugs, Drug Addiction and Alcohol Related Problems. It is chaired by the Prime Minister and comprised of the Ministers for Justice, Health, Education, Science and Higher Education, Labour, Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, National Defence, Finance, Environment, Agriculture, Economy and Social Security. The National Drug Coordinator is also a member of the Council.

The Interministerial Council is supported in its work by the Interministerial Technical Commission, which is chaired by the National Coordinator and composed of representatives designated by the different ministers. Its main function is to design, monitor and evaluate the National Plan and support action plans on illicit drugs, as well as the National Plan for alcohol.

Following a government decision in 2011 based on the Plano de Redução e Melhoria da Administração Central, the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction (IDT) was disestablished. A new structure, the Directorate General for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (SICAD), was established. Attached to the Ministry of Health, SICAD’s mission is to promote a reduction in the use of psychoactive substances, the prevention of addictive behaviours and a reduction in dependencies. Its specific tasks include supporting government to deliver the National Strategy and planning and evaluating programmes of interventions in the demand reduction area. SICAD functions as the EMCDDA’s national focal point and collects data on drug issues. It also provides technical and administrative support to the Commissions for Dissuasion. The Director General of SICAD is also the National Coordinator for Drugs, Drug Addiction and Alcohol-Related Problems.

The National Council for the Fight Against Drugs and Drug Addiction is an advisory body, chaired by the Prime Minister, who can delegate to the Minister of Health. It has a broad membership, which includes representatives from 23 institutions, public or private: Governments of the Autonomous Regions of Madeira and Azores, the Mayors’ Association, the Judges’ Council, the general public prosecutor, university deans, churches and religious communities, care services and NGOs, the Youth Council, students, parenting associations, the Family Federation, the Journalists Union, and, since 2010, representatives from the alcohol industry and commerce. It advises the Government on the National Strategy and the Action Plan and monitors the implementation reports.

The Criminal Police (Polícia Judiciária) at the Ministry of Justice coordinate interventions and information in the area of supply reduction.

Public expenditure

The Portuguese Action Plan for 2006–08 had a comprehensive associated budget. This budget forecasted labelled drug-related expenditure to represent 0.05 % of gross domestic product (GDP) (1,2), with a 3 % annual nominal growth rate. The implementation of that budget was never fully assessed. A first attempt to estimate the total drug-related expenditure was made for the year 2005, and in 2013 another attempt was made within the evaluation of the Action Plan 2005–12, but no estimates are available (3). Currently, there are no specific budget lines financing drug policy, and public entities are provided with funds within their global budget on an annual basis, notwithstanding the creation of a sub-commission on Public Expenditures within the Plan Council for Drugs, Drug Addictions and the Harmful Use of Alcohol.

The evaluation of the Action Plan 2009–12 focused on labelled drug-related expenditure. Estimates were not fully accurate because data for some types of expenditure were missing (e.g. prisons, social security, etc.), and in other areas spending on alcohol initiatives had also been included. Taking these limitations into account, labelled drug-related public expenditure was estimated to represent between 0.06 % and 0.05 % of GDP over the period 2009–11.

The available information does not allow the current total size of and trends in drug-related public expenditure in Portugal to be reported.

  • (1) Some of the funds allocated by governments for expenditure on tasks related to drugs are identified as such in the budget (‘labelled’). Often, however, the bulk of drug-related expenditure is not identified (‘unlabelled’) and must be estimated by modelling approaches. The total budget is the sum of labelled and unlabelled drug-related expenditures.
  • (2) Source: EMCDDA (2008), Selected issue 2008: Towards a better understanding of drug-related public expenditure in Europe, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Lisbon.
  • (3) S.A. Gesaworld (2013), 'External evaluation national plan against drugs and drug addictions 2005-2012: executive summary'.

Drug-related research

The National Plan for the Reduction of Addictive Behaviours and Dependences 2013–20 includes the topics of monitoring, research and evaluation of results at national and international level, to contribute to a better understanding of the phenomenon of addictive behaviours and dependencies, and to assess the impact of the measures adopted at national, regional and local levels. This is done on the basis of a global and integrated information system (the National Information System on Psychoactive Substances, Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies).

The Portuguese National Focal Point, SICAD, uses its website and reports, and national scientific journals, as the main dissemination channels for drug-related research findings. Recent drug-related studies mentioned in the 2014 Portuguese National report mainly focused on aspects related to the prevalence, incidence and patterns of drug use, but research on responses to the drug situation was also mentioned.

See Drug-related research for more detailed information. 

Key national figures and statistics

b Break in time series.

e Estimated.

p Eurostat provisional value.

1 Gross domestic product (GDP) is a measure of economic activity. It is defined as the value of all goods and services produced less the value of any goods or services used in their creation. The volume index of GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) is expressed in relation to the European Union (EU-27) average set to equal 100. If the index of a country is higher than 100, this country's level of GDP per head is higher than the EU average and vice versa.

2  Expenditure on social protection contains: benefits, which consist of transfers, in cash or in kind to households and individuals to relieve them of the burden of a defined set of risks or needs.

3 Unemployment rates represent unemployed persons as a percentage of the labour force. Unemployed persons comprise persons aged 15 to 74 who were: (a) without work during the reference week; (b) currently available for work; (c) actively seeking work.

4 Situation of penal institutions on 1 September, 2012.

5 Share of persons aged 0+ with an equivalent disposable income below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which is set at 60 % of the national median equivalised disposable income (after social transfers).

Key figures
  Year Portugal EU (28 countries) Source
Population  2014 10 427 301 e
506 824 509 ep Eurostat
Population by age classes 15–24  2014 10.7 % e 11.3 % bep
25–49 34.9 % e 34.7 % bep
50–64 20.0 % e 19.9 % bep
GDP per capita in PPS (Purchasing Power Standards) 1  2013 79 100 Eurostat
Total expenditure on social protection (% of GDP) 2  2012 26.9 % 29.5 % p Eurostat
Unemployment rate 3  2014 14.1 % 10.2 % Eurostat
Unemployment rate of population aged under 25 years  2014 34.7 % 22.2 % Eurostat
Prison population rate (per 100 000 of national population) 4  2013 136.2 : Council of Europe, SPACE I-2013
At risk of poverty rate 5  2013 18.7 % 16.6%  SILC

Data sheet — key statistics on the drug situation

        EU range      
  Year   Country data Min. Max. Average Rank Reporting Countries
Problem opioid use (rate/1 000) :   : 0.2 10.7      
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   54.3% 6% 93%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   8.2% 2% 81%      
Purity — heroin brown (%) 2013   12.6% 6% 42%   6 24
Price per gram — heroin brown (EUR) 2013   EUR 26 EUR 25 EUR 158   2 22
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   3.0% 1% 5%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2012   0.4% 0% 4% 2%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2012   0.2% 0% 2% 1% 3 26
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   12.9% 0% 39%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   1.9% 0% 40%      
Purity (%) 2013   37.3% 20% 75%   11 27
Price per gram (EUR) 2013   EUR 47 EUR 47 EUR 103   1 24
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   3.0% 1% 7%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2012   0.1% 0% 3% 1%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2012   0.0% 0% 1% 1% 1 25
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   0.1% 0% 70%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   25.8% 0% 74%      
Purity (%) 2013   23.5% 5% 71%   21 25
Price per gram (EUR) :   : EUR 8 EUR 63      
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   3.0% 1% 4%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2012   0.6% 0% 3% 1%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2012   0.3% 0% 2% 1% 7 25
All clients entering treatment (%) 2013   0.2% 0% 2%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2013   0.1% 0% 4%      
Purity (mg of MDMA base per unit) 2013   77 mg 26 mg 144 mg   7 23
Price per tablet (EUR) :   : EUR 3 EUR 24      
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   16.0% 5% 42%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2012   5.1% 0% 22% 12%    
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2012   2.7% 0% 9% 6% 6 27
All clients entering treatment (%) :   26.8% 3% 63%      
New clients entering treatment (%) :   51.6% 5% 80%      
Potency — herbal (%) 2013   6.6% 2% 13%   5 22
Potency — resin (%) 2013   13.9% 3% 22%   12 20
Price per gram — herbal (EUR) 2013   EUR 9.1 - EUR 18.1 EUR 4 EUR 25   4 19
Price per gram — resin (EUR) 2013   EUR 3 EUR 3 EUR 21   1 21
Prevalence of problem drug use                
Problem drug use (rate/1 000) :   : 2.0 10.0      
Injecting drug use (rate/1 000) :   : 0.2 9.2      
Drug-related infectious diseases/deaths                
HIV infections newly diagnosed (rate/million) 2013 1 7.4 0.0 54.5      
HIV prevalence (%) 2013   17.1% 0% 49%      
HCV prevalence (%) 2013   84.3% 14% 84%      
Drug-related deaths (rate/million) 2013   2.1 1.5 84.1      
Health and social responses                
Syringes distributed 2013   950 652 124 406 9 239 506      
Clients in substitution treatment 2012   24 027 180 172 513      
Treatment demand                
All clients 2013   4 138 289 101 753      
New clients 2013   1 118 19 35 229      
All clients with known primary drug 2013   3 007 287 99 186      
New clients with known primary drug 2013   1 392 19 34 524      
Drug law offences                
Number of reports of offences 2013   14 288 429 426 707      
Offences for use/possession 2013   8 729 58 397 713      


See the explanatory notes for further information on the methods and definitions.

Only the most recent data are available for each key statistic. Data before 2006 were excluded.

1 - In 2013, the Portuguese HIV/AIDS Programme implemented a strategy to address underreporting and reporting delay, resulting in significant increases of the number of reported cases which were diagnosed between 1983 and 2012 which are reflected in the present report.

Additional sources of national information

In addition to the information provided above, you might find the following resources useful sources of national data.

Page last updated: Wednesday, 03 June 2015