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Cocaine to Europe produces addicts locally

Former addicts rest in a room in Desafio Jovem drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Quinhámel  30 kms from Bissau Feburary 2008. use of crack cocaine is in rise in the country since Guinea-Bissau became an international transshipment point since 200
(Manoocher Deghati/IRIN)

In the three years since this country became a major trans-shipment point for drug traffickers bringing cocaine from South America to Europe many locals have started consuming the drug, according to various sources who talked with IRIN. Nowhere is that more apparent than thirty kilometres outside the capital, at the nations only drug rehabilitation centre.

“We had none of  these drug abusers when I first set the centre up,” Domingos Té, an evangelical pastor who in 2000 created the Desafio Jovem centre for mental illness on a plot of land by in a mangrove swamp near the town of Quinhamel.

“Now, in the last two years, ‘pedra’ has become the biggest problem we face,” he said.

Pedra, as he calls it, is crack cocaine, a smoked form of cocaine mixed with water and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and then heated. It is cheaper than cocaine powder and stronger and more addictive. People who take it quickly become agitated and often aggressive, particularly when they stop smoking it suddenly, Té said.

 More on local drug consumption
 Hear Our Voices
“I can get you all the cocaine you need,” drug intermediary [anonymous]
 Hear Our Voices 
“It is a difficult thing to stop smoking pedra…” Bubacar Gano
Slide show
Images of a crack cocaine rehabilitation centre

“It is a major reason for the rise in criminality in the country,” he said.

The consumption of hard drugs in West Africa has been underreported, according to Yahya Affinnih, associate professor at the department of African-American studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York who is one of the few researchers in the world to specialise in the subject.

“[But] the transformation of sub-Saharan Africa nations from transit points in an international drug network to consumer countries seems inevitable,” he said.

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.

Many are brought to the centre by force when they are aggressive and dangerous. “We give them sedatives at first to calm them down but we have almost no resources or trained staff,” he said.

“Many leave after a few days. Those who stay often simply have nowhere else to go,” he said. “Overcoming the addiction is tough and all we at this centre can do is provide some discipline and spiritual guidance.”

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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