In the past three years, requests for help related to the use of cannabis have outstripped those for of heroin and cocaine.
This is one of the greatest changes in the inevitable flip side of Portugal’s drug scene, the treatment of those whose use has become out of control.
The head of European Monitoring Unit for Drugs and Drug Addiction, João Goulão, spoke at the launch the 2015 edition of the 'European Report on Drugs' today in Lisbon.
Speaking to reporters after presenting the report, Goulão said "the situation in Portugal has been notable for the prevalence of heroin for many years," but that there has been a reduction in the importance of heroin and a "growing importance" in cannabis.
"This is perhaps the greatest change," said Goulão as treatment centres have been getting more and more patients with cannabis problems and fewer with heroin and cocaine problems.
One of the reasons may be the superhuman strength of many strains of today’s cannabis which Goulão says has a much higher power to when I were a lad. Cannabis now is a long way past being considered a soft drug as it was in the hazy past.
Goulão is all for cannabis use for therapeutic reasons as it has been show scientifically that there are benefits in certain clinical situations: but he insisted that current strains of common cannabis plants are increasingly powerful.
A few years ago the relative potency was around 3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), today "there are plants with 20% THC," he said.
The major consequence of this rise in strength has been an increase in dependency, coupled with psychotic episodes, panic attacks and other unpleasant side affects.
Drug consumption levels in Portugal remain below the European average but Goulão stressed the numbers are "still high but there has at least been a consistent decline in HIV infection among drug users."
The drug expert warned also that the authorities need pay special attention to the sale of drugs via the Internet.
This view was echoed by Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Immigration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, who chaired today’s presentation ceremony, who spoke also of concerns that the Internet is becoming "a new source of supply of psychoactive substances."
"The report shows that we are faced with a global drug market, a rapidly changing one and so we need to be united, fast and determined in our response in the face of this threat," said Avramopoulos.