Event Report: "Legal Highs: Portuguese Ban Is A Message To The World" 18th October 2013

EURAD's Secretary General provided a brief description of our latest publication and some information about the EU's new proposals on psychoactive substances

18th October 2013

On Friday 18th October, EURAD's Secretary General Fay Watson was in Portugal to present the findings from our latest publication on psychoactive substances and to update the audience on new proposals on how the EU is planning on tackling the phenomenon.

The conference, called "Legal Highs: Portuguese Ban Is A Message To The World" featured speakers such as Joao Goulao (Director of Portugal's Drug Department, SICAD), Raymond Yans (President of the INCB), Brendan Hughes (EMCDDA) and Antonio Maria Costa (Former Executive Director, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime) among others.

During the conference, the new Portuguese approach to psychoactive substances was explained. Interestingly, for psychoactives, Portugal has taken a route through their criminal legislation, in order to deal with the increasing number of substances which are available. One speaker, Carlos Fugas (Director of Therapeutic Community, Lugar da Manha) noted that "we need to challenge taboos. The new psychoactive legislation which is a restrictive drug policy has led to extremely positive results in hospitalisations but no-one wants to talk about it. Why? Because it contradicts the case study that some people have made that Portugal is a liberalising country". Joao Gouloa, Head of SICAD and President of the EMCDDA, confirmed this was the case, adding that it was true that the new psychoactive legislation "had led to decrease in hospitalisations from the moment it was introduced".

In relation to the general Portuguese drug policy, there was much debate at the conference over recent newspaper reports that there has been a 70% increase in heroin users coming to drug treatment services. Some questionned if this was a good thing (simply more people coming forward for treatment) or an indication of a wider increased drug use. Further information will be available on this next month, when SICAD publish their full report.

There was also an interesting presentation on New Zealand's new psychoactive legisation by MP Mike Sabin, who was sponsored by the New Zealand government to attend the conference. Mike explained that the New Zealand new regulatory approach to psychoactives was not really about creating a new regulated drug market but more about creating a system which would remove these substances from the market quickly and one which would put the onus of proof onto the producers themselves. Mike said that his hope with the new psychoactives legislation was that it "would remove the financial incentives out of the market". One area which sparked public fury appeared to be that of animal testing of psychoactive substances, with the public campaigning against the use of animals for testing purposes for non-medical purposes.

Finally, we would like to thank Manuel Pinto Ceolho for his support in facilitating the event, which brought forth interesting debates about approaches to psychoactive substances from across the globe.

The presentation delivered by EURAD is available here for download.

Download a filePsychoactive Portugal Presentation(1 9 6 8kb)

The presentation delivered by Brendan Hughes of the EMCDDA is available here for download.

Download a fileResponses to NPS Cascais(4 2 5kb)