The last stop
by André Paxiuta, 2018
Along the train-line that borders the favela of Jacarezinho extends one of the Cracolândias (crack-land) of the city of Rio de Janeiro, where crack-cocaine can be bought and consumed in plain sight any time of the day. According to UNODC, over the course of the last decade, Brazil has become the world's top consumer of crack-cocaine, a cheap and highly addictive derivative of the coca plant grown in bordering countries, with the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo leading the charts.
In 2014 the Secretary of Social Services announced that a total of eleven cracolandia’s had been identified in the city of Rio, comprising over 3000 drug-users. Today, local government estimates that just along the train line of Jacarezinho there are over 200 users. Nonetheless, government officials have shown very little to no control over the spread of this epidemic that while related to trafficking and organized crime it has shown to be rooted in high unemployment rates, severe levels of poverty, social prejudice towards people living in the favela and corruption among law enforcement agencies and government official.
The failure to restrain drug trafficking and its use has led to an increase in violence and to a growing number of cases of tuberculosis and HIV. Moreover, human rights activists have shown concern to the growing number of children being exposed to this environment, some of them born inside the crack-land and already experiencing addiction symptoms since birth.
Crack cocaine users are unable to sustain a normal life and tend to rapidly loose theirs jobs and families due to the highly addictive nature of the drug. One hit costs roughly 5R$ (1$54) setting the bar for a day’s goal. The high from the drug goes fast forcing users to live close to its source, referring to crime, prostitution or collecting trash-metal do sell by the pound to pay for their addiction.
Several attempts have been made by the county of Rio to clean the streets and to implement rehab programs with no success. Most of the work is done under the radar by religious and non-profit organizations that provide medical support, aid and recovery programs for drug users living along the train line. The work is mostly done on the street, establishing a relationship of trust, providing support and keeping an open door for those that decide to drop the addiction.