Paco, the sad scourge of Argentina

Since the crisis of 2001, cocaine paste or paco use is alarmingly on the rise in Argentina. Since it’s the residuum of cocaine made in…

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Paco, the sad scourge of Argentina

Authorities in Argentina, are fighting to contain the growing abuse of cocaine paste popularly known as Paco. (Walter Raymond/Latinsur)

Since the crisis of 2001, cocaine paste or paco use is alarmingly on the rise in Argentina. Since it’s the residuum of cocaine made in meth labs, this drug is practically poison. Besides that alarming fact, it’s even more addictive than cocaine itself and made more attractive to drug users for how cheap it is.

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Paco, according to the Pharmacy, Biochemistry and Medical Schools of the UBA (University of Buenos Aires), it’s a substance made up of cocaine alkaloid stretched with caffeine, sodium bicarbonate, amphetamines and even rat poison. (Malathion).

During the economic and social problems Argentina faced in the 2001 crisis, base cocaine consumption increased.

Each dose of paco weighs between 0.01 and 0.03 grams, and costs between 5 and 10 pesos (between 50 and 75 cents). The cheapness is misleading for the consumer. It’s cheap per unit, but the addiction is so strong that it forces a consumer to buy more and more doses to achieve the desired effect.

The effects of paco consumption are very serious, and as usual the poor are the most affected because they  have no access to proper healthcare services or proper nutrition. It’s extremely hard for a person to recover from this addiction, nutrition and lifestyle changes but sadly it’s the poor who lack the above listed for recovery needs.

The paco in the foreground

Paco is smoked using a pipe and is highly addictive because its effects are very intense but also very brief – it produces a transient euphoria, anxiety and severe psychosis -, they only last 15 to 20 minutes and it’s so addictive and potent that the user will do anything to get another fix: from stealing from his own family, committing assaults, resorting to prostitution or whatever it is that they need to do to keep their habit going.

Prolonged consumption of cocaine paste can cause psychosis, loss of touch with reality and hallucinations. Other physical effects are weight loss, tachycardia, verbosity, insomnia, headache, and lack of coordination. “Paqueros,” become very thin, lose their teeth and often are not able to recognize their loved ones.

The main damage is to the brain, which can be multiple: paco produces defrontalized encephalopathy, i.e. affecting the frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for curbing the impulses, the aggression, the ability to think about the consequences acts, as well as morals, ethics or spirituality.

Paco in Argentine society

It became known as “pasta base” or “the drug of the poor” and is present in most of the villas – slums – but has also spread to the middle class and some localized spots of the most privileged classes. It’s estimated that 400,000 doses of paco are consumed in Argentina per day.

Argentina was a drug transit country, but this has been changing in recent years and the scourge has turned the country into a consummer spot too. The Department of State of the United States warned in a study, that paco consumption is growing in Argentina, especially among the poorest.

It also warned of a “significant” increase in the production and consumption of cocaine, and mentioned the lack of coordination among the security forces in fighting against drug trafficking.

The U.S.  Administration also believed that local cocaine consumption and production are “increasingly becoming serious” problems, the country has the highest rate of consumption in the region: 2.6% of people aged between 15 and 64 years. It is also the largest consumer market in South America after Brazil.

Mothers of Paco

Meanwhile, the Mothers of Paco are the ones struggling to regain their children and grandchildren from the clutches of this devastating addiction that takes their loved lives. They’ve asked the State for help to stop the police corruption who deal with drug traffickers.

The movement began in 2005, mothers began their fight because their children fell into this addiction and unfortunately they were victims of this addictive drug. It seems that in Argentina the word “mother” is always behind the great movements that Government seems to lack.

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