Tuesday, March 4, 2008

First, give it to them free: Guinea-Bissau elvolves from drug transit point to consumer

IRIN has an interesting series on how Guinea-Bissau has become a drug transport hub between South America and Europe, locals have begun dealing with their own drug-use problems. In parlance of drug fighters, the country has transformed from transit point in the international drug network to a consumer point.

Here are a few highlights. The first, from a drug intermediary:

“I can get you all the cocaine you need. I can take you to houses where everyone is sitting around smoking it. You will see 10 year old boys smoking it and young girls as well.

“Just a few years ago the only drug you could buy here was yamba [marijuana] which everyone smokes – it’s part of the culture. But in the last two or three years, cocaine has suddenly appeared everywhere.

“People in Guinea Bissau on the other hand mostly use what we call ‘pedra’, which is the white cocaine powder that has been transformed into little rocks. It is smoked in a pipe or added to a yamba cigarette.

The second piece, from Domingos Té, the founder of the Desafio Jovem center, a clinic for mental illness that doubles as a rehab center:

When IRIN visited the Desafio Jovem center on 23 February, 15 of the 70 patients there were being treated solely for crack cocaine addiction but many others at the centre with alcohol addiction and mental illness had also used crack, Té said.

He said those who come to the centre are only the tip of the iceberg. “We never see the vast majority of people who take pedra. Most are hidden away is towns and villages. Often they are said to be possessed by bad spirits but the only bad spirit they have is the drug,” he said.

The drug is consumed in all parts of the country, he added. “Most of the addicts are men in their early twenties, although we also have young women addicts,” he said

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