Officials in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo are to begin making people addicted to crack cocaine get treatment.
A new law allows mandatory treatment for drug users in “advanced stages of addiction” and at risk of death. Social services, not police, will identify potential patients on the streets, the state government says.
A similar policy already targets addicted minors living on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
Business was brisk in the Mandela shantytown on a recent night. In the glow of a weak light bulb, customers pawed through packets of powdered cocaine and marijuana priced at $5, $10, $25. Teenage boys with semiautomatic weapons took in money and made change while flirting with girls in belly-baring tops lounging nearby.
Next to them, a gaggle of kids jumped on a trampoline, oblivious to the guns and drug-running that are part of everyday life in this and hundreds of other slums, known as favelas, across this metropolitan area of 12 million people. Conspicuously absent from the scene was crack, the most addictive and destructive drug in the triad that fuels Rio’s lucrative narcotics trade.
Once crack was introduced here about six years ago, Mandela and the surrounding complex of shantytowns became Rio’s main outdoor drug market, a “cracolandia,” or crackland, where users bought the rocks, smoked and lingered until the next hit. Hordes of addicts lived in cardboard shacks and filthy blankets, scrambling for cash and a fix.
RIO DE JANEIRO — In the dark before dawn, social workers advance slowly down a narrow road dividing two vast slums, entering a landscape of littered streets and broken-down shacks, where an open-air crack cocaine market does business among piles of rubble.
Escorted by police through this “cracolandia,” or crackland, they look behind cardboard lean-tos, in corners hidden by overgrown weeds for drug users who emerge, dazed, from ragged blankets. Some fight and run. One frantic young woman, her pregnant belly bulging under her short top, starts crying and pulling at her hair as police officers securing the area try to pacify her.
“Calm down, Taiane. Calm down,” says an officer who knows her. “Look at me. It’s me.”