Portgual's approach to drug use has been described as "impressive" by a report from an influential committee of MPs - and as a possible example for Britain.

The Home Affairs Select Committee said the country, where drugs have been decriminalised, with possession of small amounts not subject to criminal penalties, even though they remain illegal, had "reduced public concern about drug use.

"We were impressed by what we saw of the Portuguese depenalised system," the MPs said.

But despite his country's policies being lauded, Dr Manuel Pinto Coelho, President of the Association for a Drug Free Portugal, says decriminalisation has not worked.

portugal drugs

Portugal's approach has been criticised by Dr Manuel Pinto Coelho


"Decriminalisation in Portugal was not a blessing. Decriminalisation didn't help us. It was decriminalisation that results like this? I don't know. It makes no sense that people say since decriminalisation drugs use fell in Portugal," he told The Huffington Post UK, citing statistics from the White House which show an increase in drug related deaths between 2004-2006 in the country.

Dr Pinto Coelho argues that viewing drug attacks as sick means the line between dealers and consumers is blurred. "There is now in Portugal a trivialisation. It is more trivial then it was before. I'm not happy with this," he said.

"I don't believe a society where people have addiction is part of life. There are people who are happy in the system, I believe in the treatment in the drug dependents and that it is possible to put a final part in their addiction. I believe that every system, every policy system, should have a final goal; life without drugs. I believe they can reach a life without drugs, I believe we have always to have to fight against cancer and poverty and unhappiness and hunger and drugs."

According to statistics compiled by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) between 2001-07, after decriminalisation, more people took cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy, and LSD - but decreased in neighbouring Spain between 2003-2008.

However in 2012 the EMCDDA also found the overall number of drug dependent deaths in Portugal had fallen, with a "decreasing trend" in HIV and AIDS.

The website Full Fact has said that the debate over Portugal's performance after legalisation is "considerable."

"Full Fact found many of the problems stemmed not necessarily from a disagreement over the facts but a disagreement over which facts matter when it comes to interpreting the effects of decriminalisation," they said.

For Dr Pinto Coelho, it shows that decriminalisation had not worked. "Kofi Annan said a very interesting thing - the eradication of drugs in our planet is a difficult task but we can go forward, we can go through it. Since decriminalisation in Portugal there was an increase in every single drug. In cannabis and cocaine and ecstasy and in HIV aids," he said.