Video: Smoking "Oxi" in South America

By Dirk Hanson 05/31/11

A  lethal mix of cocaine paste, gasoline, kerosene, and quicklime is downing hundreds of addicts in the Amazon.

What do you get when you mix cocaine paste, gasoline, kerosene, and quicklime together, then dry it and smoke it?

What do you think? Addiction, paranoia, hallucinations, vomiting and uncontrollable diarrhea. And after a year, death. Or so say Brazilian officials.  When we first heard about this South American street drug, we thought it was a hoax, or at least garbled in translation. Tragically, these invented highs of the poor and the desperate are all too real.

Here’s how an article in the The Guardian described it: “Oxi, or oxidado—‘rust’—is the latest drug to surface in the Amazon. It is reputedly twice as powerful as crack cocaine and just a fifth of the price. ‘The difference between cocaine and oxi is like the difference between drinking beer and pure alcohol,’ said a federal police operative.” 

However, it turns out that oxi has been around under one name or another for quite some time, so our initial suspicions were not unfounded. According to Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks: "My guess would be that ‘Oxi’ is just a new name being used to locally market this form of cocaine paste in the Brazilian area of the Amazon region whereas it is sold as basuco in the rest of the Spanish speaking areas."

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]