Portugal's experience with decriminalising drugs

Portugal were badly struggling with widespread illicit drug use

Portugal opted for a much liberal approach and decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001.

Drugs' strain on society

Drugs are notorious for their sometimes devastating effects. The abuse of drugs can inflict harm on the individual and society, and places an added burden on the government for police resources.

Given the tension caused by drug abuse, many governments are exploring a diverse range of measures to tackle the problem. Several countries are poised to consider drastic steps like legalisation, medicalization or decriminalization of harder drugs.


But what does a successful drug policy actually look like?

A few decades past, both the US and Portugal were badly struggling with widespread illicit drug use. Both the countries took decisive action for battling the issue but in diametrically different directions. The United States raged a war on drugs, deeming them illegal. The cost of the aggressive drug policy was billions of dollars for America - and yet it was an abject failure.

At the same time, Portugal opted for a much liberal approach and decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001.


The result?

Drug overdose remains the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. According to the governmental account of nationwide drug deaths, roughly 64,000 Americans were killed due to a drug overdose in 2016.