Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in the Americas

Costs and Consequences associated with Drug Abuse in Latin America

It is estimated that 5 per cent of the patients seen in hospital emergency services are related to drug abuse. Of these, 64 per cent were due to alcohol abuse, 20 per cent due to the ingestion of psychoactive medication and 16 per cent due to multiple drug abuse (PAHO 1990).


No information reported in Annual Reports Questionnaire by 31st December 1993.


Incidence of drug injection is on the increase and is considered the main cause of HIV infection (over 30 per cent). According to a study with 160 IDVUs in Santos, the seroprevalance rate was 59 per cent. The vast majority injected straight cocaine (91 per cent) and the rest barbiturates, tranquilizers and amphetamines (UNDCP Brazilia 1991).

            AIDS is more prevalent among IVDU's than among homosexuals in Sao Paulo. Most affected is the 15-19 years old age group, where 62 per cent of the females and 67 per cent of the males have IDVU caused AIDS (Journal do Brasil 1993).

            There is no reported integration between the drug prevention authorities and the AIDS division at the Ministry of Health (UNDCP Brazilia 1992).


One hundred cases of AIDS were reported, two of which were attributed to IDVU (PAHO, 1990).


Studies in Colombia associate economic consequences to the drug problem in the country. Among the problems associated are the dislocation of traditional agriculture, deforestation with severe ecological harm, migration to and colonization of illegal cultivation zones and the appearance of the "papoula" (poppy) in 1993 (U.N. 1992).

            A 1992 study indicates to an increase in criminal behavior, violence and mortality (U.N. 1992).

            According to the Ministry of Health, there were 1,231 HIV infected people in 1991, 1,742 AIDS patients and 791 AIDS deaths. The number attributed to drug abuse is unknown (CP 1991).


Up to 30 per cent of all traffic accidents are alcohol or drug-related (Pan American Health Organization 1990).

            In 1991, there were 1793 cases of death among hospitalized drug abusers. Deaths were more frequent among non-dependent male abusers (1232) than dependent (359). There were also more death incidents among non-dependent (169), than dependent female abusers (33) (U.N. 1992).

            Although Ecuador receives some international funding, the principal costs for the health care of drug dependent abusers are borne by the government (Pan American Health Organization 1990).


Two cases of mortality due to drug abuse were reported in 1991 (U.N. 1991).


In mid March 1992, over 120 persons were hospitalized with similar symptoms, and some 24 died within the following five days. The victims abused a mixture of cocaine and heroin ("Speedball" with 70 per cent heroin). It was suspected that the "Venezuelan Speedball" contained a higher percentage of heroin and possibly other toxic cutting agents (UNDCP 1992).

            In 1990, the budget received by the Fundacion Jose Felix Ribas from the government, for its programmes of research, prevention and treatment of illicit drug abuse amounted to
27 million bolivars, of which 80 per cent was allocated to treatment. In 1991, the amount was increased to 37 million bolivars (U.N. 1991).

         "Basuco" (coca paste) is a highly addictive substance, and its abuse causes serious respiratory diseases, as well as deaths from cerebrovascular accidents. Antimotivational syndrome and drop out from school are associated with the abuse of cannabis. Inhalant abuse, mostly by children, is associated with neurological complications and occupational accidents (U.N. 1990).