RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – When I was a younger man, in the Eighties, crack was the new drug that swept over the U.S. like the plague. Then crystal methamphetamine became an epidemic in the Nineties starting on the West coast, although never as big in the East. Towards the new millennium heroine came back, pure enough for people to snort, for starters anyways.
Heroine, like cocaine, remains relatively expensive though, despite CIA poppy farming subsidies in the Middle East, and so for the real low income drug addict, crystal meth and crack has remained the death wish of choice.
“Crack is whack” was the slogan that stuck in pop culture, a message about the dangers of hitting the (crack) pipe, which brought on a wave of gang violence and ruined communities across most U.S. cities. If you need a cultural history lesson watch the 1993 film Sugar Hill.
While at the video store, or downloading stolen movies, I would also recommend the 2000 film Requiem for a Dream to experience the horror of heroine from the sideline, and to learn more about meth, try watching the 2003 film Spun.
But now Oxi or “oxidado” (rust) has arrived from the impoverished jungle, a cocaine based drug like crack, but cooked with kerosene or gasoline, acetone, battery fluid and other chemicals. Much cheaper, R$2 ($1.60) per “rock” and apparently four times more lethal.
Coming from New England (the five small North Eastern U.S. States) we like to say “wicked” a lot. Well, with my limited Portuguese language skills the best catch-phrase I could come up with is “Oxi is wicked whack”.
Someone has to be wicked poor, wicked uneducated, and wicked desperate to escape reality by smoking gasoline, acetone, and battery fluid – no matter how much cocaine it’s laced with.
If there is any glimmer of hope for Rio is that the drug gangs here have taken a hard line against crack in the favela communities. We can certainly hope they will ban this new poison, no matter what their reason is, from gaining a foothold in the Cidade Maravilhosa.
The rest of Brazil, in the back hills of the Amazon, well – I’m afraid they’ll need need help spreading the word about how dangerous Oxi is.