Crack: epidemic is stable in Brazils Southeast, but still concerning in the Countrys North and Northeast

According to the researcher, drug users in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have been using synthetic substances


Cracks diffusion through poor regions, since they are more vulnreable, owes to the cheap price, easy portability and is sold in retail

Derived from cocaine base paste, crack has been used by approximately two million people in Brazil, according to a recent study by Lenad (National Survey on Alcohol and Drugs). Despite the alarming numbers, there is a change of course regarding the drugs consumption, which has not increased in the Countrys Southeast. This scenario is still not reflected in the North and Northeast regions, where the situation is still alarming. These are the evaluations by Dr. Francisco Inácio Bastos, coordinator of the National Research on Drug Use at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation.

In 2011 crack use was under great expansion, but now, the number of users has not increased, at least from my observations in ambulatories, he said. According to him, the only observed increase was among people using different substances simultaneously, as synthetic drugs.

To the researcher, the paradigm shift of crack consumption was expected. Since the drug became more pursued and called attention of security agents, there was a decrease in the products sales by criminal groups and, thus, an increase of the consumption of other drugs.

The trend, however, depends on each of the Countrys regions characteristics. The researcher affirms that in Southeast Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, larger and richer cities, these changes on drug consumption can already be observed. It is not that crack is not used anymore, but it has become intermittently used. The dealers themselves are not selling the drug. There is a large alternation, he explained.

On the other hand, in the Countrys North and Northeast, cracks expansion potential is much greater than in other places, according to the researcher. One of the factors that reinforce this situation is the regions lower income. Having a cheaper drug, and crack is cheaper, gives this market some viability, even though the local income is lower, he said. Besides the cheap price, crack is easily transported and is sold in retail. This makes the drugs diffusion much easier in poor regions, since they are more vulnerable, making the effects even more severe.

Drop in crack use

According to the researcher, the change in some Brazilian regions is not different from what happened in the USA. The peak of drug use in that country was during the 80s, and slowly decreased. After this called the polices attention, there were several arrests and the penalty for crack use was increased. This dismantled the drugs sales. As this happened, other substances came up, he said. Bastos believes that, in a medium term, crack consumption will also decrease in Brazil.

Other factor that contributes to the drop is that crack is not sustainable over generations. According to the researcher, the users dont support the street life, not only due to crack use, but also to the awful nutrition conditions, health problems and high risk of infections and murder. I do not believe a drug of such fast action could maintain itself for a long period. By the way, I do not have any patients over 50 years-old, he stressed.

Besides market changes and the non-sustainability of long-term drug use, Bastos believes the social protection networks, where the public-private partnership is fundamental, have also contributed towards the consumption decrease. We had a great increase in assistance places, especially from religious groups. Both the public powers, with governmental programs and society became very active, he said.

To access the full study about crack consumption in Brazil, coordinated by researcher Francisco Inácio Bastos, click here.