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Portugal's Response to Drug Related Harm

Aug 3, 2018

The Queensland Mental Health Commission has prepared a report on "Portugal's response to drug-related harm" following a visit to Portugal by the Mental Health Commissioner to observe the drug policy model in Portugal. The Portuguese model was introduced into Portugal's Legal Framework in 2000 in response to a high prevalence of problematic substance use and high levels of injecting and associated HIV and Hepatitis C infection rates.  Individuals in possession of an illicit substance are charged but in many cases are referred to the "Dissuasion Commission", which provides an early intervention opportunity targeting an individual's characteristics and needs.

In practice this means that people who use illicit substances are diverted from the criminal justice and health systems, while people who are dependent are supported to access a treatment service. The model focuses on demand reduction and supply reduction, which has allowed for police resources to be redirected from people recreationally using substances to the policing of international trafficking syndicates. In the decade since the Portuguese approach was implemented, it has resulted in a decrease in adolescent illicit drug use, an increase in the amount of drugs seized by authorities and a reduction in the public burden resulting from substance use. Portugal's response to drug related harm has been acknowledged by the International Narcotics Control Board as a best practice model.