Preemptively Predicting the Challenges Facing a Drug-Treatment Program

Historians often are uncomfortable predicting future events; just because a familiarity with the past helps understand possible outcomes going forward does not mean we’re comfortable picking just one of those (usually many) possibilities. That said, I feel confident in suggesting that São Paulo city’s new efforts to force crack addicts into mandatory treatment is going to immediately run into problems. Why can I be so certain?

Because a city of 11+ million people facing a crack “epidemic” has only 700 spaces available for treatment in a country with an estimated 1.2 million crack users nationwide, with many of them in cities like São Paulo, where the use is so widespread that part of the city has become known as “Cracolandia” (“Crackland”). If the problem is widespread enough to prompt the government to conduct sweeps to gather up crack users (sweeps that left a 10-year-old dead two weeks ago), I suspect the 700 spaces for treatment will fill up long before addicts are off the streets (to say nothing of the limits of state power in these types of actions).

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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