Portugal decriminalised drugs. Results? Use by teens doubled in a decade with nearly a fifth of 15 and 16-year-olds using drugs

* Liberal Democrats held up Portugal as shining example on ‘drugs war’

* But since legalisation the number of children users has more than doubled

* In 1995 8% of teenagers had tried drugs but after new law it rose to 19%

* More children under 13 have also tried cannabis since laws were relaxed

The nation held up by the Liberal Democrats yesterday as a shining example of how to win the war on drugs is far from the unqualified success story they make out.

For the number of children using drugs in Portugal has more than doubled since the country’s laws were liberalised, the latest figures show. A decade after the law was relaxed, nearly a fifth of 15 and 16-year-olds use drugs – well over twice the number in the years before decriminalisation.

The controversial Home Office report commissioned by the Liberal Democrats states: ‘It is clear that there has not been a lasting and significant increase in drug use in Portugal since 2001.’ But the evidence suggests otherwise.

The most recent independent report on what is happening in Portugal shows that in 1995 eight per cent of Portuguese teenagers had tried drugs.

In 1999, when laws began to be relaxed, it was 12 per cent.

But after decriminalisation in 2001, it rose to 18 per cent in 2003 and 19 per cent in 2011. The picture for cannabis use is similar. In 1995, only 7 per cent of Portuguese teens had tried the drug but by 2011 the figure was 16 per cent.

The report, by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs, looked at 100,000 15 and 16-year-olds across Europe. Its most alarming finding covers children under 13 in Portugal.

In 1999, 2 per cent had tried cannabis. By 2003, that had risen to 4 per cent and remained at that level in 2011.

The Home Office report based its contrary findings on evidence from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the EU drugs watchdog, which is based in Lisbon. But even the watchdog’s verdict on Portugal is contradictory.

It has not endorsed Portugal’s own drug abuse figures from a 2012 survey, saying the results are not yet available. But it adds that the country’s survey of children’s health ‘indicates an increase in the prevalence of cannabis use in the period 2006-10’.

The EU watchdog endorses ESPAD’s verdict. ‘The most recent ESPAD study corroborates the findings, showing an increase in consumption of illicit substances since 2006,’ its report on Portugal says. ‘This trend is observed among both male and female students.

However the Home Office report accepted, without qualification or reference to other sources, the Portuguese government’s figures produced by Portugal’s drug control agency SICAD.

It says that among all Portuguese adults the proportion that had used cannabis in the last year was 3.3 per cent in 2001, 3.6 per cent in 2007 and 2.7 per cent in 2012. On the basis of these figures, the Home Office report said: ‘Following decriminalisation in Portugal there has not been a lasting increase in adult drug use.’

There is, however, a question over the figures. The director of SICAD is Dr Joao Goulao, an influential political figure widely hailed as the architect of decriminalisation. He is publicly proud of the ‘success’ of his policy and boasted in 2012 of frequent visits by ‘politicians, doctors, experts and journalists from around the world’.

Critics say he has an interest in publishing figures to back his case. Kathy Gyngell, research fellow for the right-leaning British think tank Centre for Policy Studies, said: ‘The same man who introduced the policy is responsible for producing the figures.

‘Dr Goulao clearly has an interest in making the figures look good.’

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2815084/Portugal-decriminalised-drugs-Results-Use-teens-doubled-decade-nearly-fifth-15-16-year-olds-using-drugs.html#ixzz3HigpFzI8 

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