Brazilian Cities Hit by Crack Epidemic

An alarming rise in the use of crack cocaine is unnerving Brazilian officials and tarnishing the country's image ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

An alleged crack addict sleeps at a "crackland" near Parque Uniao in Rio de Janeiro (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

The Washington Post is reporting that Brazil is experiencing a crack-cocaine epidemic reminiscent of that of the United States in the 1980s, when addiction to the cheap drug devastated whole communities and families.

The troubling news comes at a precarious time for the nation, which is in the midst of preparing to host the soccer 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

... In cities all over Brazil -- from this gritty metropolis [Sao Paulo] to the crown jewel of Rio de Janeiro and smaller places in the middle of the Amazonian jungle -- nightfall brings out swarms of desperate addicts looking for their next fix in districts known as “cracolandias,” or cracklands.

And like the crack wave that slammed the United States, the result here is the same -- lives destroyed, families upended, neighborhoods made uninhabitable.

"Crack is an incurable illness," said Paulino, 50, a wiry, fast-talking addict who wouldn't give his last name as he explained his daily appetite for the drug. "I need crack in my blood. My sickness is like a serpent. What's the medicine for a serpent?"

With an estimated 1 million cocaine users, Brazil is being whipsawed by a problem that some leaders here once thought of as solely an American one. The trend carries worrisome ramifications for the country, whose population of 200 million includes a booming, new middle class, offering a promising market for traffickers, drug-control experts say.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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