Portugal country overview

Portugal country overview

Map of Portugal

About NFP: 

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 decrease in dependencies.

SICAD is the 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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Last updated: Friday, May 20, 2016

Drug use among the general population and young people

Content for prevalence: 

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 the 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 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.


Content for prevention: 

The Portuguese National Plan for the Reduction of Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies 2013–20 recognises a need for age-specific prevention in the contexts of family, school, recreational and sports settings, community, workplaces, road safety and prisons. At the national level, prevention is a task of the Division of Prevention and Community Intervention of SICAD, while the Regional Health Administrations have a further role in the operational health policies.

In the framework of the National Plan, the Operational Plan of Integrated Responses (PORI) is an intervention framework targeted at drug demand reduction and organised at the local/regional level. In each specific territory, an intervention may address problems particular to local needs by bringing together relevant partners, and working in different settings. Within PORI, the most vulnerable territories have been mapped in order to prioritise them for resource and intervention allocation. In continental Portugal, 163 territories were identified for the development of integrated intervention responses at several levels (prevention, treatment, harm and risk reduction, and reintegration). In 2014, following the re-assessment of territories and defining new gap areas for activities, 16 integrated response prevention projects (out of a total of 77 project) were implemented in the framework of the Operational Plan, covering nearly 21 200 people, mainly through awareness raising, information activities and educational interventions.

Universal drug prevention is part of the Portuguese school curriculum and is implemented mainly in sciences, biology and civic education studies. Prevention programmes are delivered through training sessions, awareness-raising activities and dissemination of printed information. In the Safe School programme law enforcement agents patrol the areas surrounding schools to prevent and protect the school from criminal activities in the surrounding area, such as drug trafficking. The agents are also involved in awareness and training activities in teaching establishments (targeting students, parents and school staff). The programme Me and Others has been implemented since 2006 across various educational settings and focuses on promoting a child’s healthy development. The programme is evaluated annually in pre-post design only, and the evaluations suggest an increase in self-efficacy among the participants that might be due to the programme. Other standardised school-based prevention programmes are available at regional and local levels. Drug prevention activities aimed at university students, in vocational education settings, in workplaces and the military are also designed and implemented.

Searching for the Family Treasure is a well-researched selective programme for vulnerable families, and Kosmicare is a new intervention to tackle crisis events related to the use of psychoactive substances at music festivals.

Indicated prevention activities are mainly carried out by community support services or in integrated response centres. They focus on individual psychological and psychosocial support for young people who have experimented with drugs.

Counselling and information on psychoactive substances and available interventions are also provided via a helpline, and recently via the internet.

Several large media campaigns were implemented in recent years to complement awareness rising and information activities targeting young people and also in music festival settings.

All government-financed prevention interventions are monitored. Moreover, new guideline documents to support the design and implementation of prevention programmes are constantly being developed. Thus in 2013–14 a number of new guidelines for preventive interventions for addictive behaviours and dependencies were adopted.

See the Prevention profile for Portugal for more information. 

Problem drug use

Content for problem drug use: 

Up to 2012 the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) defined problem drug use as injecting drug use 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. In 2014 a capture–recapture study using two data sets from 2012 (treatment and justice) was carried out. The study provided estimates of recent high-risk cocaine use, high-risk opioid use, high-risk drug use and injecting drug users in mainland Portugal. The prevalence of high-risk cocaine users indicates a rate of 6.2 per 1 000 inhabitants (95% CI: 5.2–7.2). The estimated population of high-risk opioid users is lower than the figure for  cocaine users. Thus, in mainland Portugal there were between 27 434 and 36 282 high-risk opioid users, which translates to a rate of 4.19–5.54 per 1 000 inhabitants aged 15–64. In 2012 the prevalence of injecting drug users was estimated at 1.31 per 1 000 inhabitants aged 15–64. Due to changes in the methodology and stratification of the estimate by substances in 2014, no comparisons with the earlier estimates can be made.

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. The Severity of Dependence scales, included in the survey, suggest that about 0.7 % of 15- to 64-year-olds can be considered high-risk cannabis users.

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

Treatment demand

Content for 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. Data for the treatment demand indicator (TDI) are extracted from the monitoring system. In 2013 the TDI protocol version 3.0 was implemented at the national level. The SIM enables treatment demand data to be collected from all 72 outpatient public treatment centres across Portugal. In 2014 a total of 3 753 clients entered treatment, of which the majority were new clients entering treatment for the first time (1 950).

The primary drug of abuse among all treatment clients in 2014 was opioids, mainly heroin, at 54 %, followed by cannabis at 28 % and cocaine at 14 %. Among new treatment clients, 51 % reported cannabis, followed by 26 % for opioids, and 17 % for cocaine. From 2010 to 2014 there has been an upward trend in the proportion new treatment clients reporting cannabis or cocaine as their primary substance of concern, while the proportion of those seeking treatment due to opioid use has been declining over the same time period. Moreover, drug injecting is also declining, as only about 14 % of all treatment clients reported using their primary drug by injection, and the proportion among new treatment clients was even smaller at 4 %. However, the route of administration was not reported for a substantial number of clients.

The majority of all treatment clients were 35 to 44 years old, while majority of new treatment clients were younger than 35. With respect to gender, 89 % of all and 84 % of new treatment clients were males.

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

Drug-related infectious diseases

Content for 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 2014 some 14.7 % of drug users who ever injected drugs and were treated at outpatient treatment services were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive. Among injecting drug users admitted to the same treatment environment, the rate of acute hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection (388 tested) was 5.2 %, and for hepatitis C virus (HCV) the rate was 84.4 % (410 tested).

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 2014 a total of 920 new HIV and 249 new AIDS cases were reported, for all risk groups together. Similarly, there has been a decline in the incidence of HIV and AIDS with injecting drugs as the risk group since 1999–2000 (40 new HIV cases in 2014 and, 1 482 in 2000; 42 new AIDS cases in 2014 and 675 in 1999).

This decreasing trend of new cases of HIV infection associated with drug use, despite the improvements on the screening coverage and access to healthcare, suggests a decrease in ‘recent infections’ in this risk group, reflecting the results of policies implemented and a change in drug user behaviour, namely a decrease in injecting drug use and sharing of paraphernalia.

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

Drug-induced deaths and mortality

Content for drug-induced deaths: 

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 2013 the General Mortality Registry, which extracts data according to the EMCDDA protocol, registered 28 cases of drug-related deaths, which is the largest number reported since 2001 when 34 deaths were notified.

Provisional data from the Special Registry show 33 drug-related death cases (selection D) in 2014 (22 in 2013; 29 in 2012; 19 in 2011; 52 in 2010; 56 in 2009; 94 in 2008). In 2014 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 85 % 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 4.5 deaths per million, lower than the most recent European average of 19.2 deaths per million.

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

Treatment responses

Content for treatment responses: 

Healthcare for drug users was reorganised in Portugal in 2013–14, and it is now provided through the Referral Network for Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies. The Network encompasses public specialised services of treatment for illicit substance dependence, under the authority of Regional Health Administrations of the Ministry of Health, and also non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other public or private treatment services interested and competent in provision of care. The Network ensures wide access to quality-controlled services provided through several treatment modalities and in integration with other, non-health, services to this vulnerable population. The public services are provided free of charge and are accessible to all drug users who seek treatment.

The Network envisages three levels of care: (1) primary healthcare services; (2) specialised care, mainly in outpatient settings; (3) differentiated care, mainly in inpatient settings (detoxification units, therapeutic communities, day centres and/or specialised mental or somatic healthcare). Although the model accepts that clients can enter treatment at any of these levels, in the long term it is expected that clients will enter treatment through first-level services, meaning primary healthcare.

Outpatient treatment is available at all three levels of care; however, the main providers of outpatient treatment belong to level 2 and include 72 specialised treatment teams of the Centres of Integrated Responses. These treatment teams are usually entry points for the clients. From there, referrals are made to public or private detoxification units or therapeutic communities. All centres provide both psychosocial and opioid substitution treatment (OST). Activities primarily aimed at early interventions and provision of counselling take place in general healthcare, while mental health services provide care to addicts with mental co-morbidities.

Inpatient treatment is mainly provided through the third level of care services. These includes short-term withdrawal treatment (7–10 days usually), which is available in eight public and private detoxification units. There are also 60 therapeutic communities, which usually provide three- to 12-month residential treatment programmes. Therapeutic communities are mainly privately owned and publicly funded. Recently a new programme of extended duration (up to three years) has been designed to meet the needs of clients who require longer-term support services. 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 were also created.

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

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 was approved for use in 2007.

Decree Law 183/2001 Article 44.1 and Decree Law 15/93 Article 15.1–3 stipulate that methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) can be initiated by treatment centres, and that buprenorphine treatment can be initiated by any medical doctor, specialised medical doctors and treatment centres. Buprenorphine provision in pharmacies started in 2004. MMT is free of charge to the client, while buprenorphine-based medications are available in pharmacies with the National Health System covering 40 % of the market price of the medication.

In 2014 some 16 587 clients were registered in opioid substitution programmes, 67 % of whom were in MMT and the remaining 35 % in high-dosage buprenorphine treatment. OST is also available in prison settings.

See the Treatment profile for Portugal for additional information. 

Harm reduction responses

Content for harm reduction responses: 

The main priority established by the National Plan for the Reduction of Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies 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 evolving drug use phenomenon through promoting effective and integrated responses.

A network of harm reduction programmes and structures, including needle and syringe exchange programmes (31 units), low-threshold substitution programmes (18 units), a drop-in centre/shelter, refuges (one unit), contact units (two units) and outreach teams (26 units) 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 among people who inject drugs. 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 53 million syringes have been given out under this programme between its launch in October 1993 and December 2013. 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. In 2014 some 1.7 million syringes were distributed by the programme through primary health centres, NGOs and mobile units, which documents a substantial increase comparing to reports for 2012 and 2013 (1.3 million and 950 000 syringes respectively). 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

Content for 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 2014 most cocaine was trafficked from Brazil. Heroin seized in Portugal comes mainly from the Netherlands, cannabis products come from Morocco or Spain (liamba), while ecstasy arrives from Israel or Germany.

As was the case for the previous ten years, in 2014 the highest number of seizures involved cannabis resin (3 472), followed by cocaine and heroin (1 042 and 690 respectively). The number of cocaine seizures continued to decline in 2014 and was the lowest registered since 2005. However, the quantity of substances seized has fluctuated widely from one year to the next. Thus, in 2014, the quantity of seized cannabis resin (32 877.46 kg) increased more than threefold from the levels reported in 2013 (8 681.07 kg), and cocaine seizures totalled 3 715.151 kg, which is significantly more than in 2013 (2 439.72 kg). In the last decade the number of heroin seizures has steadily declined, and this is also reflected in the decreasing trend in the annual amount of heroin seized for the same period of time. Ecstasy and amphetamines continue to be seized in Portugal less frequently than other illicit substances and remain in limited quantities. It was reported 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. No methamphetamine seizures were reported in 2014.

In 2014 a total of 14 733 people were reported to be involved in drug-law offences. The Integrated System of Criminal Information reported 5 674 offenders involved in 5 046 offences related to the supply of drugs. The Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction informed about 9 059 persons involved in non-criminal offences related to use/purchase/possession of drugs for personal use. 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

Content for 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

Content for 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 drug 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. Three management areas – coordination, budget and evaluation – support the strategic implementation of the National Plan.

The National Plan is being implemented through two action plans covering the periods 2013–16 and 2017–20. The 2013–16 action plan sets out 134 actions to be implemented during its timeframe.

Coordination mechanism in the field of drugs

Content for 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 drug 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 of Drug Addiction. 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

Content for 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 (0.6 % of GDP in 2009 and 2010, and 0.5 % in 2011).

  • (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), Towards a better understanding of drug-related public expenditure in Europe, Selected issue, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Lisbon.
  • (3) S.A. Gesaworld (2013), ‘External evaluation national plan against drugs and drug addictions 2005–12: Executive summary’.

Drug-related research

Content for Drug-related research: 

Both the National Plan for the Reduction of Addictive Behaviours and Dependences 2013–20 and SICAD’s Strategic Plan for 2013–15 include 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 were reported on problem drug use, university students, new psychoactive substances, prison setting and dissuasion.

See Drug-related research for more detailed information. 

Data sheet — key statistics on the drug situation

Content for Data sheet: 
        EU range      
  Year   Country data Min. Max.      
Problem opioid use (rate/1 000) 2012   4.86 0.2 10.7      
All clients entering treatment (%) 2014   53.8% 4% 90%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2014   26.3% 2% 89%      
Purity — heroin brown (%) 2014   14.0% 7% 52%      
Price per gram — heroin brown (EUR) 2014   EUR 31 EUR 23 EUR 140      
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   3.0% 1% 5%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2012   0.4% 0% 4%      
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2012   0.2% 0% 2%      
All clients entering treatment (%) 2014   13.5% 0% 38%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2014   17.5% 0% 40%      
Purity (%) 2014   40.1% 20% 64%      
Price per gram (EUR) 2014   EUR 48 EUR 47 EUR 107      
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   3.0% 1% 7%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2012   0.1% 0% 3%      
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2012   0.0% 0% 1%      
All clients entering treatment (%) 2014   0.0% 0% 70%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2014   0.1% 0% 75%      
Purity (%) 2014   27.3% 1% 49%      
Price per gram (EUR) :   : EUR 3 EUR 63      
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   3.0% 1% 4%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2012   0.6% 0% 6%      
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2012   0.3% 0% 2%      
All clients entering treatment (%) 2014   0.2% 0% 2%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2014   0.4% 0% 2%      
Purity (mg of MDMA base per unit) 2014   80 mg 27 mg 131 mg      
Price per tablet (EUR) 2014   EUR 4 EUR 4 EUR 16      
Prevalence of drug use — schools (%) 2011   16.0% 5% 42%      
Prevalence of drug use — young adults (%) 2012   5.1% 0% 24%      
Prevalence of drug use — all adults (%) 2012   2.7% 0% 11%      
All clients entering treatment (%) 2014   28.4% 3% 63%      
New clients entering treatment (%) 2014   50.8% 7% 77%      
Potency — herbal (%) 2014   7.8% 3% 15%      
Potency — resin (%) 2014   18.0% 3% 29%      
Price per gram — herbal (EUR) 2014   : EUR 3 EUR 23      
Price per gram — resin (EUR) 2014   EUR 3 EUR 3 EUR 22      
Prevalence of problem drug use                
Problem drug use (rate/1 000) :   : 2.7 10.0      
Injecting drug use (rate/1 000) 2012   2.2 0.2 9.2      
Drug-related infectious diseases/deaths                
HIV infections newly diagnosed (cases / million) 2014   3.8 0.0 50.9      
HIV prevalence (%) 2014   14.7% 0% 31%      
HCV prevalence (%) 2014   84.4% 15% 84%      
Drug-related deaths (rate/million) 2014   4.5 2.4 113.2      
Health and social responses                
Syringes distributed 2014   1 677 329 382 7 199 660      
Clients in substitution treatment 2014   16 587 178 161 388      
Treatment demand                
All clients 2014   3 753 271 100 456      
New clients 2014   1 950 28 35 007      
All clients with known primary drug 2014   2 858 271 97 068      
New clients with known primary drug 2014   1 358 28 34 088      
Drug law offences                
Number of reports of offences 2014   14 105 537 282 177      
Offences for use/possession 2014   9 059 13 398 422      

Key national figures and statistics

Content for Key national figures and statistics: 

b Break in time series.

e Estimated.

p Eurostat provisional value.

: Not available.

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, 2014.

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 10 427 301 505 944 075 bep Eurostat
Population by age classes 15–24  2014 10.7 % e 11.3 % bep Eurostat
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  2014 78 100 Eurostat
Total expenditure on social protection (% of GDP) 2  2013 27.6 % : Eurostat
Unemployment rate 3  2015 12.6 % 9.4 % Eurostat
Unemployment rate of population aged under 25 years  2015 32.0 % 20.3 % Eurostat
Prison population rate (per 100 000 of national population) 4  2014 134.3 : Council of Europe, SPACE I-2014.1
At risk of poverty rate 5  2014 19.5 % 17.2%  SILC

Contact information for our focal point

Address and contact: 

Serviço de Intervenção nos Comportamentos Aditivos e nas Dependências (SICAD) (General-Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies)

Parque de Saúde Pulido Valente
Alameda das Linhas de Torres 117, Edifício SICAD
1750-147 Lisboa
Tel. (351) 21 111 90 00
Fax. (351)21 111 27 93 to 98

Head of national focal point: Mr João Goulão

Official contact persons:
Ms Sofia Santos
Tel. (351) 21 111 91 65

Mr Oscar Duarte
Tel. (351) 21 111 90 38

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