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As drug traffickers meet resistance in the US, they’ve begun to move into new territory – South America. Crack has been a growing problem in Brazil and as of today is the world’s largest market for the cheap, highly addictive street drug. In San Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, officials don’t know what to do about the hundreds of zombielike addicts who by night wander a no man’s land known as Cracolandia, or Crackland. Crack in Brazil has become a key issue in local elections. The growing problem of crack in Brazil undermines the progress the nation has made with its growing prosperity and millions of new consumers.

Though most public figures have been concerned with trying to clean up Brazil’s “cracklands”, there have been allegations that certain candidates are taking advantage of the crack epidemic. Candidates for the city council in one Brazilian city were accused of using crack to lure addicts and dealers to vote for them.

Crack is the freebase form of cocaine. It is smoked, and it is the most addictive form cocaine. The reason it is so addictive is because smoking crack gives the user a short but very intense high. Smoking is second only to IV injection in terms of how quickly the drug hits your system, and a very close second at that.  Although the United States is still the largest market overall for cocaine, the surge of crack in Brazil illustrates a global new trend. Traffickers are exploring new markets to offset the decline in cocaine sales in the United States, mainly due to the US’s greater domestic spending on prevention, stronger enforcement, and users switching to other drugs.

Crack in Brazil is beginning to resemble the crack epidemic that plagued the United States in the 1980’s. In the inner cities, swarms of crack addicts have converted whole city blocks into open air crack markets.  Nearly 6 million adults in Brazil have tried crack, and 1 in 100 have used crack in the last year. Though law enforcement is trying to battle the problem of crack in Brazil, they are not making much progress. Addicts throw stones at approaching social workers and psychologists, and children as young as nine or ten are picked up, taken to shelters, and go back to the slums as soon as they are released. Raids clear the streets for a day or two, and then the crack dealers are back.

Law enforcement officials are working with the DEA to try to solve the problem of crack in Brazil. However, even though crack use declined sharply in the US in the 1990’s, it is not clear if the fall off was due to the efforts of law enforcement or if the crack epidemic simply burned itself out due to the toll crack takes on the body. Critics of the recent law enforcement raids say that police intervention simply disperses the problem of crack in Brazil to other neighborhoods, and that treatment needs to be part of the solution to crack in Brazil if it is ever going to be resolved.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for crack or cocaine addiction please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at

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