Portugal, the iconic example of drug liberalization that is quoted over and over, had a rough landing with the release of country’s latest drug statistics revealing much of this closely-watched human experiment. 

According to the 4th National Survey on the Use of Psychoactive Substances in the General Population, Portugal 2016/17, there has been a rise in the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco consumption and of every illicit psychoactive substance (essentially affected by the weight of cannabis use in the population aged 15-74) between 2012 and 2016/17. 

The number of people using cannabis has gone up by more than 40 per cent in the years since Portugal made using drugs a ‘health problem rather than a crime’ in 2001. Some 15 years after Portuguese drug law ‘reforms’, almost 15 percent of the country’s young people have used cannabis, according to the figures collected by the Intervention Service for Addictive Behaviors and Dependencies (SICAD) agency, a level that is up from 12.4 percent. 

The study also saw an increase from 8.3% in 2012, to 10.2% in 2016/17, in the prevalence of illegal psychoactive substance use. “These are the trends found for cannabis,” the most popular illegal substance, according to the provisional results of the study.