The Addictions Coach: Portugal…16 years later, has Decriminalization of Drugs Worked?

Portugal…16 years later, has decriminalization of drugs worked?


In the year 2001, the country of Portugal decriminalized all drugs. This means that getting caught with heroin, cocaine, weed, pills, etc. was still illegal, but the punishment was only a fine or maybe some community service work. The idea behind this move was to take away the “criminal” stigma associated with drug addicts and give them purpose in life.

Let’s take a minute and look at some of the statistics from this country since the year that the decriminalization was implemented and then let you, the public, express your thoughts on how you feel about decriminalization itself and how you feel about the job the country of Portugal did on this matter.

One of the first stats that jumps out at us is that since 2001 and the decriminalization there is now only 3 overdose deaths per every 1 million residents. Comparable in other countries like the 10.2 per million in The Netherlands to the 44.6 per million in the UK. It goes all the way up to 126.3 per million in Estonia and the world average is 17.6 per million. So you can see that Portugal is way under the world average and on the extremely low side of the scale.

Here is a stat that really rings loud for us here in the U.S. The use of synthetic drugs such as bath salts is almost non-existent and it is the lowest in the world. There is no synthetic drug problem in Portugal. This is a direct result of people not even considering these fake drugs because the real thing is easily accessible all over the country. We here in the U.S. know first hand just how dangerous these synthetic drugs can be.

And the third major stat that jumps out at us is that HIV infections are the second lowest in the world. Second only to Romania. This is a direct result of the lack of sharing dirty needles. People can get clean needles wherever and whenever they want. There is absolutely no need to use a dirty needle. Now, just think of the positive outcomes that the lack of a disease like HIV has on the healthcare system in Portugal. That is a different discussion for a different time.

Of course like everything in life, there are pros and cons to this situation. We here at Top Recovery Coaches and Life Coaching for Drug and Alcohol Addiction stay open-minded to these different situations and would love to hear your thoughts on the decriminalization that took place in Portugal and the direct results that have taken place since. Also, if you know of someone who is struggling with any addiction, contact us here at 1-800-706-0318