Drug Abuse in the Global Village



                        Extent of Drug Abuse

The estimated number of drug dependent persons in Portugal is between 40,000 and 50,000 (AIDS in Europe 1991).

            Cannabis is the most common drug of abuse. Heroin is the next most abused drug, especially intravenous drug abusers. Cocaine abuse is less widespread, but its abuse is increasing. It is often abused in combination with heroin. Multiple drug abuse is reported common (CND 1992).

            School surveys (12 to 18 years old), carried in 1987 and 1988, showed that monthly abuse prevalence was the highest for cannabis (4.43 per cent in 1987 and 4.62 per cent in 1988), followed by cocaine (0.45 per cent in 1987, 0.83 per cent in 1988) and heroin (0.36 per cent in 1987, 0.89 per cent in 1988). School surveys from 1987 through 1991 showed that lifetime abuse prevalence of cannabis was the highest, followed by heroin and cocaine (see Table 1 for more details) (CND 1992).

Table 1. School surveys, 1987-1991. Lifetime Prevalence of illicit drug use (12 to 18 years old)  (Percentage).
Year     Region              Cannabis              Cocaine                    Heroin
1987    Great Lisbon    8.40                 1.10       1.17
1988    Great Lisbon    8.82                 1.53       1.76
1989    Metropolitan
             Portugal           3.11                 0.60       0.82
            Lisbon County  4.70                 0.84       0.77
1990    Lisbon County  5.23                 0.68       0.62
1991    Metropolitan
             Portugal           3.32                 0.71       0.79
Source: Report of the Delegation of Portugal to the 35th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), April 1992.

                       Abuser Characteristics

School surveys results show that the average age of drug abusers is 15 to 16 years old (CND 1992). Drug abuse is more widespread among males (Portugal 1991). Among adult drug abusers, heroin abuse is most prevalent in the 25 to 29 age range and cannabis among the 20 to 24 years old. For both drugs, females make up 20 per cent of the abusers (U.N. 1990).

                         Regional Variations

Abuse of illicit drugs is more significant in urban areas (see table 1) (CND 1992). The regions most affected are Lisbon metropolitan area, Oporto and Algarve (U.N. 1990).


The number of seizures and quantity seized in recent years has shown a steady increase, this is particularly true for heroin and cocaine (CND 1992). With respect to numbers of drug related arrests, there has been a constant growths of those related to cocaine and heroin, while cannabis appears to have stabilized (CND 1992).

            First treatment demands have increased from 3,051 in 1987, to 4,844 in 1990. The age of drug abusers seeking treatment decreased (Portugal 1991).

                             Mode of intake

Heroin is injected and smoked. Cocaine is sniffed and there are no reports that it is injected (Portugal 1991).


Drug related deaths. In 1990 a total of 82 deaths related to drug abuse were reported, 62 were attributed to heroin overdose (U.N. 1990; CMO 1991).

HIV seroprevalence/AIDS. Of the total 1,275 AIDS cases reported for June 1993, 252 were of injecting drug abusers (19.8 per cent) (AIDS in Europe 1993).



                           National Strategy

A National Programme for Drug Abuse Control was approved in 1990 and consists of 23 measures and initiatives to be developed in the areas of prevention, treatment, social re-integration and illicit trafficking. New organs and structures were set up in 1990 to deal with drug abuse control: An Inter Ministerial Commission, a consultative National Board and a National Coordinator has been appointed. District and Council Nucleuses responsible for coordinating initiatives to be implemented under the National Programme have been set up. Further, Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Services and the Bureau for Planning and Co-ordinating Drug Abuse, set up in 1990 and 1976 respectively, are the two specific services within the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice which deal exclusively with drug control problems (Portugal 1991).


                           Treaty adherence

Portugal is Party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol, 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and to the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.


                          Primary Prevention

Drug education is part of the national curricula since 1990. Information programmes aimed at various target groups (youth, parents, teachers, health and welfare staff, law enforcement, magistrates) have been developed (CMO 1991).

            Information programmes aimed at the general public have been developed, using television, radio, the press and the distribution of printed and video material aimed at specific audiences (Portugal 1991).

            AIDS prevention. Sales of syringes in pharmacies are subject to no restrictions. AIDS information is provided in the drug prevention programme for schools and to the general public though the media. Information and education programmes have been developed by Drug Treatment Centres (Portugal 1991).

                 Treatment and Rehabilitation

The policy of the Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Service is to decentralize operations; accordingly, new attendance and treatment centres have been established throughout the country (11 between 1988 and 1990) (Portugal 1991).

            Treatment modalities available include, therapeutic communities (10 in 1991), general hospitals providing drug abuse treatment (2 in 1991), self-help facilities (10 in 1991), and specialized detoxification facilities (19 in 1991). In 1991, a total of 4,554 patients were undergoing treatment, the principle drug of abuse being heroin (91.3 per cent), and heroin and cocaine in combination (3.9 per cent) (cannabis 2.1 per cent, benzodiazepines 0.5 per cent and alcohol 0.8 per cent) (CMO 1991). Fifty four per cent of the patients are treated with psychotherapy, 42.1 per cent with pharmacotherapy (12.8 per cent with methadone) (CMO 1991).

            Assistance to drug abusers is available through street workers or counselling teams targeting young people and parents. Treatment of drug addicts in prisons and social reintegration of ex-prisoners are provided. A phone service providing information and help is in operation since 1987 (Portugal 1991).

            In 1991, the Government approved an assistance programme aimed at NGOs working in the field of secondary and tertiary prevention (day centres, long stay residential communities, re-insertion apartments etc.). The Government provides a financial contribution of about 80 per cent of the total expenses to these selected organizations (Portugal 1991).

            A pilot vocational training programme (Projecto EJA) to provide psychological and psychotherapeutic support to ex-addicts and young people with no drug abuse problem but with no job skills was in operation in 1990 (U.N. 1990).


      Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

The highest number of drug law infractions in ten years occurred in 1990. Offenses regarding drug abuse numbered 2,229 (1,877 between 1986 and 1989), trafficking 620 (1,337 between 1986 and 1989) and abuse-trafficking 737 (284 between 1986 and 1989) (Portugal 1991). The number of arrests involving heroin and cocaine have increased significantly since 1987, whereas those for cannabis have stabilized (see table 2) (CND 1992).


Most seizures in Portugal involve heroin, cocaine and cannabis. Other drugs seized are opium, morphine, LSD, amphetamines, depressants and tranquilizers. Table 2 shows seizures reported between 1987 and 1991 (CND 1992).


Table 2. Number of seizures, quantities seized and arrests by drug type, 1987 to 1991.
Year     Drug                 Number                Amounts                   Arrests
1987    Heroin              398                  30             543
            Cocaine            118                  222           177
            Cannabis resin  1,076               4,917        1,335
            Cannabis herb  66                    16             118
1988    Heroin              420                  33             480
            Cocaine            141                  301           158
            Cannabis resin  911                  343           1,148
            Cannabis herb  41                    11             52
1989    Heroin              564                  61             726
            Cocaine            164                  793           176
            Cannabis resin  1,212               4,595        1,555
            Cannabis herb  51                    32             60
1990    Heroin              1,346               36             1,681
            Cocaine            346                  360           269
            Cannabis resin  1,216               9,545        1,570
            Cannabis herb  63                    61             61

1991    Heroin              1,991               62             2,980
            Cocaine            453                  1,094        447
            Cannabis resin  908                  7,630        1,181
            Cannabis herb  44                    123           57
Source: Report of the Delegation of Portugal to the 35th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), April 1992.

                      Supply Source of Drugs

The origins of seized drugs in Portugal have not changed in recent years. With respect to seizures in 1991, nearly 90 per cent of the seized heroin originates from the Netherlands and 95 per cent of the cocaine comes from Latin America (Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil). All seized cannabis originates from Morocco (CND 1992).

                       References and Notes

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years .... (not available by January 15th 1994).

U.N. 1990. Reply to the UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the year 1990.

CMO 1991. Reply to the questionnaire concerning the seven targets of the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control (CMO), 1991.

CND 1992. Report of the Delegation of Portugal to the 35th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), April 1992.

Portugal 1991. National Report of Portugal to the First Pan-European Ministerial Conference on Co-operation on Illicit Drug Abuse Problem, Oslo 9-10 May 1991.

AIDS in Europe 1993. AIDS surveillance in Europe, Quarterly Report No. 38, 30 June 1993, European Centre for the Epidemiological Monitoring of AIDS.

AIDS in Europe 1991. AIDS among drug abusers in Europe, Review of recent developments, WHO 1991.