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Brazil Backs Treatment and Education to Beat Crack

Over $2 billion is being invested to end Brazil's crack epidemic—but most of it won't go to law enforcement.

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A young woman smokes crack in Brazil.
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By Luke Walker

12/08/11

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The Brazilian government is pledging to invest $2.2 billion to combat the nation's growing crack cocaine epidemic. "Crack has become a deep social wound, given its capacity to destroy families," says Alexandre Padilha, Brazil’s Health Minister. He claims that cases of drug dependency in Brazil have multiplied ten-fold in the past eight years, with crack the biggest problem. The issue hits close to home in the US, where back in the '80s crack posed a huge public health threat. But Brazil is planning a more progressive approach than both the US one then and some of its own previous efforts. Most of the new money will be invested in prevention and treatment, like the creation of new clinics and in-school drug education, rather than law enforcement and incarceration. Over 210,000 Brazilian teachers and police officers will receive new training on spreading an educational anti-drug message. Enforcement initiatives will focus on policing Brazil’s long, porous borders, shared with ten other South American countries.

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