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Cocaine, crack and base
Written by Fabio Mesquita   

Dr. Fabio Mesquita
City co-ordinator, Sao Paulo harm reduction
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In Brazil, 90% of all drug injections involve cocaine (1). Cocaine was already being consumed in 1910, but its use spread like wildfire in the seventies, and towards the end of the decade, it began to be injected. Cocaine is inexpensive because there is a large supply available and because the market is a competitive one. One gramme costs only 10R$ (40FF), which still amounts to 15% of the minimum monthly income 600FF) earned by half of the population. Colombia, which borders Brazil, is the main heroin producer, but the prices ín Brazil are five to ten times higher. As the result of the War on Drugs waged by the United States against the main cocaine-producing countries (Colombia, Bolivia, Peru) in the eighties, the latter countries began to export to other neighbouring countries in addition to Brazil, such as Argentina, Chile and Paraguay. Thedifference between the users' practices in the developed and developing countries is that the former take it pure, while the latter mix it with other substances such as bicarbonate of soda. Injecting cocaine produces effects that are similar to those of crack, and there are many undesirable consequences. Although dependency on crack occurs faster than with other drugs, injected cocaine produces even faster effects and leads to greater dependency, as well as entailing greater risks of HIV transmission and overdosing. One of the worst problems is the craving: cocaine is injected much more frequently than heroin. The same syringe is used as a rule by the same person as many as 10 to 15 times. There exist no real pharmaceutical substitutes for cocaine. However, tests have been carried out in Bolivia in which the cocoa plant used by Indian communities has been substituted for cocaine. Attempts are being made to repeat this experiment in other countries. The results of one recent experiment carried out at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, in which crack was replace by marijuana, were quite surprising. 70% of the subjects tested were reported to have switched from the one drug to the other within a period of one to six months. In view of these results, those who carried out this experiment have suggested that this treatment should be adopted in the framework of harm prevention polity.

1. The remaining 10% are amphetamines, harhiturates, tranquillisers and heroine.