The Government has been warned not to follow Portugal in liberalising drugs laws because it has caused an increase in their use in the country.
It comes after the Home Office minister Jeremy Browne visited Portugal last week on a “fact-finding” mission to investigate drugs legislation in other countries.
In a separate development, a new report shows that more than 280 potentially harmful “legal highs” are now being monitored by European drugs experts.
The EU’s drugs agency said in a joint report that 73 new drugs have become available in Britain and across Europe.
Portugal decriminalised possession of drugs for personal use twelve years ago and since then seen a rise in harmful drug use.
Professor Neil McKeganey, of the Centre for Drug Misuse research in Glasgow said: “We must beware a drift towards further decriminalisation on the back of the Portuguese experiment.”
Surveys in 2001 and 2007 showed that among 15-64-year-olds, lifetime use of cannabis rose from 7.6 per cent to 11.7 per cent, cocaine from 0.9 to 1.9 per cent, and Ecstasy from 0.7 to 1.3 per cent.
Kathy Gyngell, a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, said it would be a “disaster” if Britain allowed young people to legally take drugs.