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To the attention of organisations like The charitable think tank "Transform", which is lobbying for a change in the law” about the article Can lessons be learned from Portugal's drug laws?” published October 3rd on BBC News Uk (by Matthew Hill), the APLD - Association for a Drug Free Portugal, informs:

Drug decriminalization in Portugal is a failure, despite reports like this one published recently all over the world claiming the opposite.

There is a complete and absurd campaign of manipulation of facts and figures of Portuguese drug policy which Matthew Hill appears to have “bought”..

This is not the standard of unbiased and critical reporting that we expect from the BBC.

The article says that the number of newly reported cases of HIV and AIDS among drug addicts has declined substantially every year since 2000 (907) until 2008 (267), quoting a Portuguese Institute IDT´s official.

Unfortunately it does not comply with the truth. By no means have the numbers declined. The exact opposite took place.

As a matter of fact Portugal remains the country with the highest incidence of IDU-related AIDS and it is the only country recording a recent increase. 703 newly diagnosed infections, followed from a distance by Estonia with 191 and Latvia with 108 reported cases. We’re top of the list, with a shameful 268% aggravation from the next worst case (EMCDDA November 2007)

The number of new cases of HIV / AIDS and Hepatitis C in Portugal recorded among drug users is eight times the average found in other member states of the European Union. “Portugal keeps on being the country with the most cases of injected drug related AIDS (85 new cases per one million of citizens in 2005, while the majority of other EU countries do not exceed 5 cases per million) and the only one registering a recent increase. 36 more cases per one million of citizens were estimated in 2005 comparatively

to 2004, when only 30 were referred ” (EMCDDA - November 2007).

Since the implementation of decriminalization in Portugal, the number of homicides related to drug use has increased 40%. "Portugal was the only European country to show a significant increase in homicides between 2001 and 2006." (WDR - World Drug Report, 2009)

"With 219 deaths by drug 'overdose' a year, Portugal has one of the worst records, reporting more than one death every two days. Along with Greece, Austria and Finland, Portugal is one of the countries that recorded an increase in drug overdose by over 30% in 2005".(EMCDDA – November 2007).

The number of deceased individuals that tested positive for drugs (314) at the Portuguese Institute of Forensic Medicine in 2007 registered a 45% rise climbing fiercely after 2006 (216). This represents the highest numbers since 2001 – roughly one death per day - therefore reinforcing the growth of the drug trend since 2005(Portuguese IDT – November 2008).

“Behind Luxembourg, Portugal is the European country with the highest rate of consistent drug users and IV heroin dependents”. (Portuguese Drug Situation Annual Report, 2006.)

Between 2001 and 2007, drug use increased 4.2%, while the percentage of people who have used drugs (at least once) in life, multiplied from 7.8% to 12%. The following statistics are reported:

Cannabis: from 12.4% to 17%

Cocaine: from 1.3% to 2.8%

Heroine: from 0.7% to 1.1%

Ecstasy: from 0.7% to 1.3%.

(Report of Portuguese IDT 2008)

“There remains a notorious growing consumption of cocaine in Portugal, although not as severe as that which is verifiable in Spain. The increase in consumption of cocaine is extremely problematic.”

(Wolfgang Gotz, EMCDDA Director - Lisbon, May 2009)

“While amphetamines and cocaine consumption rates have doubled in Portugal, cocaine drug seizures have increased sevenfold between 2001 and 2006, the sixth highest in the world”.

(WDR - World Drug Report, June 2009)

“It is difficult to assess trends in intensive cannabis use in Europe, but among the countries that participated in both field trials between 2004 and 2007 (France, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Portugal), there was an average increase of approximately 20%”. (EMCDDA - November 2008)

The reality of Portuguese drug addiction has been blatantly tampered with. The statistical results have been insidiously manipulated by institutions controlled by the government. The Portuguese IDT goes on distorting the numbers and manipulate minds.

The problem is serious and deserves consistent answers. The banner of "harm reduction" cannot be an ideology and an end in itself. It is extremely disturbing to promote the correct use of drugs "safely" (sic!) integrating consumption into the habits (about 70% of Portuguese addicts scrutinized in the country are not in drug-free programs but in programs that, while called treatments, are actually "substitutions" because these “treatments” substitute one drug for another) that is being made possible by public institutions (such as the Portuguese IDT), which submits with the support (sic!) from  the State, countless numbers of addicts to a life of  dependency.

“Resounding success”? Look at the results!

If facts are important, the Portuguese model is a mistake. Britain should not make the same mistakes.

Can lessons be learned from Portugal's drug laws?”

Most definitively.

Manuel Pinto Coelho

Chairman of APLD

Association for a Drug Free Portugal and member of International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy)