Crack Consumption Raises Concern in Brazil

By Dialogo
October 25, 2012

Currently, Brazil is first in the global rankings for crack consumption, with approximately 1.2 million users, according to recent research conducted by the Federal University of São Paulo (UNESP). According to estimates from the Brazilian House of Representatives Security Commission and the Federal Police, an average of one ton of drugs is consumed daily, generating close to 10 million dollars per day.

Among the few studies available, the one conducted by UNESP shows 72% of users between 18 and 34 years old, and 17% between 12 and 17 years old, which is probably one of the major causes of school drop-outs. The northeast region concentrates the highest number of users with 40%, followed by the southeast with 36%, and the mid-west with 22%. Crack is very attractive due to its low cost, when compared to drugs such as cocaine. One crack rock can be purchased for 5 reais ($ 2.5) from thousands of points-of-sale throughout the city.

This situation is raising health authorities’ concerns because 98% of the towns in Brazil recorded problems of this nature. The condition worsened due to the increased demand for assistance, which in 2008 used to be 30%, and jumped to 70% in 2010, while the public policies still do not offer an efficient and integrated system to promote neither prevention nor suppression. The public health system is disjointed, there aren’t enough hospital rooms, and there are no treatments provided by the country’s Unified Health System. In many cases, the addicts are confined at home by their families as a way to keep them from committing crimes, particularly theft, armed robberies, and prostitution, causing family disruption as a result.

The matter is no longer just a health issue, but mainly a public safety issue, because it is responsible for the increase in violence and criminal activities, among other factors. According to psychiatrist Pablo Roing, specialized in chemical addiction, for every ten users, six commit crimes to obtain their drugs. The conclusion is that there is an increase in indirect deaths, not related to debts to suppliers or other users and where the youth is the most common victim. This is beyond doubt a very concerning situation which attracted the attention of government authorities, and at the same time, it is a big challenge for society because it is not just a problem pertaining to the underprivileged; it also reaches the middle class population of the country.

*André Luís Woloszyn – Strategic Affairs Analyst