A social cost perspective in the wake of the Portuguese strategy for the fight against drugs

Int J Drug Policy. 2015 Feb;26(2):199-209. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.08.017. Epub 2014 Sep 6.


The Portuguese National Strategy for the Fight Against Drugs (NSFAD), approved in 1999, was explicitly grounded on the values of humanism and pragmatism and paved the way for the decriminalization of illicit drug use in Portugal in 2000. This paper presents an analysis of the social costs of illicit drug use in the wake of the strategy's approval. Taking into consideration health and non-health related costs, we find that that the social cost of drugs decreased by 12% in the five years following the NSFAD's approval and by a rather significant 18% in the eleven-year period following its approval. Whilst the reduction of legal system costs (possibly associated with the decriminalization of drug consumption) is clearly one of the main explanatory factors, it is not the only one. In particular, the rather significant reduction of health-related costs has also played an important role.

Keywords: Drug addiction; Drug decriminalization; Drug policy; Social costs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness*
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / economics
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Policy / economics
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humanism
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / economics
  • Illicit Drugs / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Portugal / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / economics
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*


  • Illicit Drugs