Portugal’s decriminalisation of drugs ‘not a model for the UK’

July 8, 2009 at 2:11 pm 2 comments


A Home Office minister has told MPs that 329,000 people in England were problematic drug users in 2006-07—that is, people using either opiates, crack cocaine or both.

However Under-Secretary of State Alan Campbell said that as illegal drug use is “a hidden activity” the actual number of people addicted is unknown.

Labour MP John Mann told the minister that a system in use in his Bassetlaw constituency had reduced overdoses, deaths, hospital admissions from overdoses, and burglaries.

“When will the Minister’s Department look at those recommendations and see why the system that is used in my constituency, and in Australia, Sweden and many other countries, is working and dealing with drug addiction, unlike the Government’s own policy?” he asked.

Mr Campbell said the government has had some success in reducing the number of drug users in England.

“This summer the millionth person is likely to go through the drug intervention programme, and overall drug use is down,” he told MPs.

“We are not complacent in any way, but I do believe that we are making progress.”

Tory MP Nicholas Soames asked if the Prison Service “is appropriating enough funds for the treatment of drug addicts and to deal with the problem.”

Mr Campbell said funding “has gone up significantly to achieve the results that the hon. Gentleman looks for in prisons.

“Of course, we want action to rid people of their drug habits and to end the link with acquisitive crime before they enter prison, but he is absolutely right: we need a seamless system.

“This means that when someone is in prison they receive the treatment that they need, that it continues when they leave and that, hopefully, they can break the habit and return to a normal life.”

Dr Brian Iddon, a Labour MP, said Portugal has had “great success over the past eight years in reducing drug misuse.”

In 2001, Portugal became the only EU member state to decriminalise drugs.

Mr Campbell claimed it is “too early” to draw conclusions about what effect decriminalisation has had.

“We have to be careful in the message we send out about the harm that drugs do,” he added.

Tory Nigel Evans said the most cost-effective way to deal with the problem “is to ensure that the treatment that such people need is given before they have to resort to crime. The fact is that not enough places are available.”

The minister said that treatment is expensive, “but for every £1 invested we save £9.50 across the life of a drug user.

“The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need early intervention, and we also need to make sure that there are resources for treatment.

“We are seeking to achieve, and are providing, those things.”


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2 Comments Add your own

  • […] * Photo above via. […]

  • 2. Lee Evans  |  March 6, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Nonsense its not too early to learn from Portugal at all, there has been plenty of data collected over the past 9 years.
    See the Greenwald white paper:-
    Lessons for Creating Fair
    and Successful Drug Policies

    The lessons are very clear:-
    No increase in drug usage
    Lisbon has not become a drug tourist haven
    Drug usage lower than other EU states with criminalised
    Many advocate advancement to the next stage of legalisation.

    Drug policymakers in the Portuguese government are virtually
    unanimous in their belief that decriminalization
    has enabled a far more effective
    approach to managing Portugal’s addiction
    problems and other drug-related afflictions.
    Since the available data demonstrate that they
    are right, the Portuguese model ought to be
    carefully considered by policymakers around
    the world.


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