The government’s campaign to curb crack cocaine use that was launched late last year is failing to deliver on its targets, reports O Globo. As of the start 2013, the program Entitled ‘Crack, É Possível Vencer’, which aims to treat crack addiction through the combined effort of four separate government departments, can only count half of Brazil’s states as members.
The city of Rio de Janeiro has begun a program of involuntary hospitalization for crack users, one month after Brazil’s biggest city São Paulo began a similar program. Critics say that forcing addicts into rehabilitation treatment is ineffective. “When an addict is interned unwillingly, he can remain abstinent as long as he remains hospitalized,” Psychiatrist Dartiu Xavier da Silveira said. “When he returns to his normal life (and his usual problems), the vast majority of users go back to using the drug as before.”
São Paulo’s Cracolândia was Brazil’s first and is still its biggest. It is home to 2,000 addicts. But most Brazilian cities now have similar districts. Recent studies put the country’s crack-using population at 1m-1.2m, the world’s largest. Some city governments have used strong-arm tactics against the crack epidemic—with little effect other than to fill prisons, which have more than twice as many inmates as a decade ago.
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.
Sao Paulo State expanded its attack on crack cocaine by unveiling a program that will provide about $650 a month in subsidies for the rehabilitation of addicts at private treatment centers. Governor Geraldo Alckmin said 1,350 reals will be earmarked monthly for each crack user who voluntarily enrolls in a rehabilitation program that is expected to get under way in 11 cities. The state will give the money to accredited rehabilitation centers when clients present a "Begin Again" card they receive after enrolling in a program.
With Brazil gripped by a crack epidemic, the authorities have launched a series of controversial initiatives. Since the start of last year, São Paulo has introduced street clearance operations by police, increased funds for rehabilitation centres and, most recently, focused more on judicial intervention and involuntary treatment. Critics argue that the policies are haphazard, shift with the political winds, often violate the rights of the users and may be driven by business demands to clean up a piece of potentially valuable land.