Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in the Americas

Regional Variation in Drug Abuse in Latin America

Abuse of synthetic narcotics is prevalent in large urban centres (cities with over 200,000 inhabitants). Abuse of coca leaf is common in urban as well as rural regions of the northeast (i.e., the provinces of Salta, Jujuy and Tucuman).


A 1990 study among a population ranging 10 to 45 years of age in 5 Bolivian citiesindicates that the highest rate of abuse is in Santa Cruz (13.40 per cent), followed by Riberalta (12.30 per cent) and La Paz (10.42 per cent)(see table 1,CONAPRE 1990).

     Table 1: Proportion of the Bolivian population, 10 to 45 years of age, abusing drugs, 1990.



















Source: CONAPRE 1991.


Brasilia is the city with the highest incidence of drug abuse overall, but Rio de Janeiro has the highest incidence of abuse of cocaine according to a 1987 study of students in the 10 largest cities in Brazil (Ministries of Health and of Justice 1989).

            According to a survey in 1986-1987 in Sao Paulo City, 95 per cent of the street children reported "ever" abuse of volatile solvents. Daily abuse reached near 25 per cent of the surveyed children (U.N. 1988). Abuse of volatile solvents is reported as experimental among students in urban areas but high among street children. In 1989, more than 40 per cent of the street children in Sao Paulo were classified as moderate or heavy abusers and nearly 20 per cent in Porto Alergre and Fortaleza (Ministry of Health 1990).

            Porto Alegre is the only city where there are more female than male drug abusers. Differences in lifetime abuse are not significant but the data showed that 55 per cent of the women had used drugs more than 10 times, while the corresponding figure for men was 47 per cent (Ministries of Health and of Justice 1989).

            In 1992, crack was reported as the drug most consumed in Sao Paulo (Folha de S.P., 1993).


Drug abuse in Chile is more concentrated in the north, on the border of Bolivia and Peru. Abuse of coca-paste and cocaine is reported to have increased in the north. An estimated 5 tonnes of coca base paste are smuggled to Chile through the northern border annually. The abuse of coca derivatives in this regions tends to spread to the rest of the country, especially to the most populated cities (CND 1991).

            The increase in cocaine abuse in the northern region has now equaled and possibly surpassed the level of cannabis abuse in the north (CND 1992).


According to a study on health knowledge, attitudes and behaviors there is a higher tolerance towards the abuse and traffic of drugs in Bogota and Eastern region, while the atlantic area was the most conservative (CMO 1990). According to other sources, Bogota and Antioquia had the highest percentages of drug abuse (11 per cent) for cannabis, cocaine, "basuco" (coca paste) and opiates, and Bogota also presented the highest prevalence of "ever" abuse of psychoactive medicines and inhalants (National Household Survey 1993)


In general, the cities of Quito, Guyaquil and those in the border make up areas where there is greater availability and greater consumption. Higher abuse rates have been also observed among the population of urban metropolitan areas (U.N. 1990).

            Tranquilizers and barbiturates are consumed mostly in the metropolitan and amazon regions. Amphetamines are consumed in the amazon regions, followed by undeveloped regions. Narcotics, cannabis and inhalants are most consumed in amazon regions, followed by metropolitan regions. Cocaine consumption is highest in metropolitan regions and then in amazon areas. Vegetable-type drugs are consumed mainly in the amazon and urban regions (La Farmacodependencia en el Ecuador 1992).


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



Drug abuse is reported to be a problem predominantly in the urban areas, although it is prevalent elsewhere in the country (CP 1991).