Atlantic Cities
Photos

Scenes from Brazil's Crack Epidemic

As Brazil's economy expands, so too does its demand for drugs. The world's second largest cocaine consumer behind the United States is struggling against a growing crack epidemic at the same time that it's preparing to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.  

Cracolândia (which translates as 'Crack Land'), a roughly 10-block area of São Paulo that amounts to an open-air market for the purchase and consumption of crack, has proved particularly difficult for police to shut down. 

But other Brazilian cities, including Rio de Janeiro, are being hit by increased demand for the drug as well. The epidemic has prompted officials to allocate more than $8 billion to fight the narcotics trade while overhauling Brazil's defense strategy, focusing on a strict securing of its borders (unconventional policy among Latin American nations).

Via Reuters, a look at how the reality of Brazil's crack problem is playing out on the streets of its cities. (Warning: Some of these images are graphic).

 A man sleeps after smoking crack next to Metropolitan Civil Guards in the Luz neighborhood of Sao Paulo February 1, 2012. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Crack addicts consume the drug on a street in Sao Paulo March 19, 2012. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

A youth consumes crack on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro March 19, 2012. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

A drug user smokes crack in the old center of Salvador da Bahia March 19, 2012. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

A youth consumes crack on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro March 19, 2012. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 

Homeless crack addicts sleep along a streetside in Porto Alegre March 19, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer/Brazil

Crack addicts smoke along a bridge in the center of Belo Horizonte March 19, 2012. REUTERS/Washington Alves

A man smokes crack in the Manguinhos neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro March 19, 2012. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 

A man holding an umbrella smokes a pipe as a group gathers in the Luz neighborhood of Sao Paulo February 1, 2012. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

A woman walks by a graffiti image of "Saci-perere," a character in Brazilian folklore who is often seen smoking a pipe, in part of Sao Paulo's Luz neighborhood, December 8, 2011. The words on the wall read "Not everything is which seems." REUTERS/Nacho Doce 

A girl (third from left) deals crack in Sao Paulo's Luz neighborhood, April 28, 2010. REUTERS/Fernando Donasci 

 A woman leaves her tent next to a Metropolitan Civil Guard (R) after smoking crack in part of Sao Paulo's Luz neighborhood December 8, 2011. REUTERS/Nacho Doce 

Crack addicts gather in the Campos Eliseos neighborhood of Sao Paulo February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Police patrol the Jacarezinho slum in Rio de Janeiro October 19, 2009. The violence, in which two police officers were killed when their helicopter was shot down, left parts of the Brazilian city looking like a war zone in a blow to its image two weeks after it was awarded the 2016 Olympic Games. The poster reads, "Only Jesus frees from Crack. Pastor Gilberto Reis." REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

A man burns cables to get copper for sale next to a viaduct in the Consolacao neighborhood of Sao Paulo February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

Join the Discussion