The number of patients being hospitalised in Buenos Aires for paco abuse has tripled over the last year, according to a survey published in the Argentine daily, Clarín. In 2008, 0.9% of patients were treated for problems directly relating to the drug but over the past year that number has risen to almost 3%. After alcohol, paco abuse is now the second most common form of addiction being treated in the capital’s hospitals. According to the survey, compiled by the Observatory for Addictions, part of the Buenos Aires Ministry for Social Development, even when paco abuse is not the reason for hospitalisation, it is a factor in 9.7% of cases.
Paco is a cheap and highly addictive by-product of cocaine. A dose typically costs between $2 and $10, but the high it produces lasts only a few minutes, so users tend to take 10 to 15 hits a day. Then survey suggests that use is rising dramatically, and in hospitals Penna, Piñero, Alvarez and Santojanni, 14% of the patients had some health problem relating to the drug.
The drug is typically associated with poverty, and the most common users are males under 18 years old. The hospital which received the highest humber of cases (5.9%) is Piñero, which is the main health centre for one of the city’s largest slums, Villa 1.11.14.
The Buenos Aires minister for Social development, María Eugenia Vidal, stated that “the question of paco is part of a more general problem of increasing addictions, that started years ago and has to do with the fact that consumption became normal and that children do not have projects in their lives or strong families to hold them back.”
However, there is evidence to suggest that paco abuse is also spreading among the middle classes. The president of the foundation Convivir, which has a program to treat addicts, said that she was seeing “more cases of children who consume paco, but who are not form such low social backgrounds.”