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By Patricia Maresch, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The deadly and highly addictive drug, oxi, a mix of cocaine paste, gasoline, kerosene, quicklime and, in some cases, cement and sulfuric acid, has reached Niterói in Rio de Janeiro. During an operation executed by the 79th precinct of the Civil Police in Niterói, eighteen oxi stones were seized and a suspected dealer was arrested.

Cracolândia in Jacarezinho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, News
Cracolândia in Jacarezinho favela of Rio de Janeiro, image recreation.

The police are also on a major alert in an area called ‘Cracolândia’ in the favela Jacarezinho in Zona Norte (North Zone) of Rio. During a recent police investigation in this poor, crime-ridden area, the police arrested sixty suspected crack addicts, of whom sixteen were children and adolescents. By organizing regular police actions and removing addicts, the department hopes to eventually rid the area of drug addicts.

Secretary of Security, José Beltrame, confirmed that oxi has reached the state of Rio de Janeiro: “It’s one more drug, one more problem. And not just for us, but for everybody,” he told CBN radio.

Beltrame said the police will do its part in fighting the drug, but his strategy also counts on the work of other institutions: “The fight against drugs not only involves security to stop this new substance from emerging, but it also depends on the treatment of addicts. We must be prepared to face oxi.”

Oxi is a much cheaper version of crack. It looks like a little rock and it’s smoked in a makeshift pipe or rolled up in a cigarette. It sells for about R$2 (US$1.20) a stone, much cheaper than the regular street value of crack of R$10 (US$6.30).

According to psychiatrist Pablo Roig from the Rehabilitation Clinic Greenwood in São Paulo, oxi reaches the brain faster than cocaine or crack. He told Brazilian press: “Cocaine is snorted through the nose and has to go through the blood to reach the brain. Therefore, it takes longer to have effect than crack and oxi, which are inhaled into the lungs and reach the brain within seconds”.

A young man in Rio Branco, Brazil holding a rock of Oxi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, News
A young man in Rio Branco, Brazil holding a rock of Oxi, photo by Gabriel Elizondo/Al Jazeera.

Oxi provides sensations that can go from joy and relief to anxiety and paranoia, depending on the person. It is highly addictive and far more destructive to the body than crack, heroine or cocaine, because of the high toxic levels of the substance.

Experts say oxi first causes damage to the lips, taste buds, and teeth. Then it starts to effect other organs, like the liver and the kidneys. Once the kidneys shut down, the body cannot eliminate toxins from the blood, causing nausea, diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems. Furthermore, addicts are also more vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes.

“People can use crack at least five to six years, but thirty percent of oxi users may well be dead after one year,” Roig added.

Alvaro Mendes, a researcher who helped conduct the first study of oxi in 2005, said “This can no longer be called only an Amazon drug for the poor … It’s also now being used more and more by middle and upper-middle class.” as reported by Al Jazeera.

Mendes, adds: “In the fifteen years I have been working with chemical dependency, I have never seen a drug with such a potential of destruction as oxi.”

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