Authorities say crack use has dropped 80 percent in São Paulo's notorious "Crackland" district since the implementation of With Open Arms ("De Braços Abertos"), a government-sponsored drug treatment program initiated in January 2014, reported a municipal government office in São Paulo. But there are reasons to doubt the initiative's reported success.
On a mild winter morning in São Paulo, two dozen people pick up brooms and rubbish bins from a warehouse. They wear blue jumpsuits with a De Braços Abertos (With Open Arms) logo, referring to a controversial new programme for crack cocaine addicts, and set off to sweep streets in the city centre.
São Paulo's Cracolândia has been here for 15 years. Its population hovered around 1,500. The city recently took over a collection of flophouses around Cracolândia – businesses whose clientele had fled along with most regular commerce in the neighbourhood – and set 400 addicts up in long-term accommodation. They also pitched a big tent on the edge of the fluxo, the shifting mattress camp on the streetcorner where addicts squat, hung up the Braços Abertos (Open Arms) banner and deployed an army of social workers
The mayor of Bogota has recently proposed a pilot scheme with crack cocaine addicts to explore the substitution of crack made of cocaine base paste (or bazuco as it is called in Colombia) by marijuana. The substitution treatment plan will include 15 problematic users from the marginalized Bronx area who are already receiving health assistance of the CAMAD operating in that sector of the city. The treatment will last approximately eight months, after which the results will be evaluated.
In the city of São Paulo, the culture of crack use has undergone considerable changes over these 11 years since it was first described. The sociodemographic profile of the users is practically the same and most use is still compulsive, with significant physical, moral and social impairment among them. Sole use of crack has overwhelmingly been replaced by associations between crack and other drugs, thus characterizing users in the city of São Paulo as multiple drug users.
Based on two studies carried out in the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, this report examines the origin, characteristics and impact of the explosive increase in cocaine base paste in urban areas. It also highlights the variety of products consumed in these cities and the substance known as crack that is consumed in Brazilian cities. The Brazilian experience with this consumption could serve as an example and a lesson for the Southern Cone.
Eliseu Labigalini Jr, Lucio Ribeiro Rodrigues, Dartiu Xavier Da Silveira
01 October 1999
This study ensued from clinical observations based on spontaneous accounts by crack abusers undergoing their first psychiatric assessment, where they reported using cannabis in an attempt to ease their own withdrawal symptoms.