Colombia drug treatment center plans spark debate

August 17, 2012 by Jose Bautista

A proposal to open treatment centers in the Colombian capital for drug addicts is causing a stir in this cocaine-producing Latin American country.

The project, the brainchild of Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro, is aimed at curbing drug-related crime. Petro's office says it is similar to programs in Canada, Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The plan is to treat the addicts with prescription medication, said Bogota Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo.

Colombia has long focused on breaking up the responsible for trafficking to lucrative markets in the United States and Europe, but ignored the growing local population of addicts.

The centers are planned for three neighborhoods with large numbers of addicts and would especially target people hooked on "basuko," a cheap, highly addictive cocaine derivative similar to crack.

Nurses, doctors and psychiatrists would be on hand to treat the addicts. The centers would also provide food, access to bathroom facilities and even toys for children.

Last month, Colombia's Congress passed a law calling for to be seen as a public health problem and not as a crime.

According to the mayor's office, 125,000 of Bogota's 7.3 million inhabitants use drugs. Of those, 70,000 are addicts, including some 7,000 basuco addicts.

If approved by the federal government, the centers could open in September.

Petro's proposal "has started a debate on the domestic consumption of cannabis, cocaine, basuko and heroin," said Alvaro Enciso, president of the La Luz foundation that supports drug addicts.

The project's detractors including Colombian Attorney General Alejandro Ordonez, who claims such centers "promote" and that there is no certainty they cause a decrease in offenses.

In 2011, 252 of Bogota's 1,632 registered homicides -- 15.4 percent -- were linked to drugs, according to official figures.

In the 1980s and early 1990s Colombian cartels dominated the American trade, but a US-supported government crackdown has left local cartels in increasing disarray.

The regional cocaine trade, however, is still alive and well: in 2011 Colombia was the world's largest cocaine producer, according to a United Nations report. Colombia and neighboring Peru are the world's largest producers of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, according to the report.

Colombian criminal gangs as well as leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups sell the to Mexican criminal syndicates, who then smuggle it into the United States and Europe.

Explore further: Research offers hope for treatment of cocaine addiction

Related Stories

Coke addicts prefer money in hand to snowy future

August 11, 2011

When a research team asked cocaine addicts to choose, hypothetically, between money now or cocaine of greater value later, "preference was almost exclusively for the money now," said Warren K., Bickel, professor in the Virginia ...

Brazil moves to combat 'crack epidemic'

December 7, 2011

The Brazilian government on Wednesday launched a war on what it called a "crack epidemic", including medical treatment for addicts and a crackdown on trafficking, particularly in border areas.

Recommended for you

Researchers grow retinal nerve cells in the lab

November 30, 2015

Johns Hopkins researchers have developed a method to efficiently turn human stem cells into retinal ganglion cells, the type of nerve cells located within the retina that transmit visual signals from the eye to the brain. ...

Shining light on microbial growth and death inside our guts

November 30, 2015

For the first time, scientists can accurately measure population growth rates of the microbes that live inside mammalian gastrointestinal tracts, according to a new method reported in Nature Communications by a team at the ...

Functional human liver cells grown in the lab

November 26, 2015

In new research appearing in the prestigious journal Nature Biotechnology, an international research team led by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem describes a new technique for growing human hepatocytes in the laboratory. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Aug 17, 2012
"125,000 of Bogota's 7.3 million inhabitants use drugs."

i.e., Drugs for the Colombian culture does not include alcohol, since alcohol has holy status in that country. The Colombian population has a very serious alcohol consumption problem....

"In 2011, 252 of Bogota's 1,632 registered homicides -- 15.4 percent -- were linked to drugs"

i.e., probably 80% were related to alcohol consumption. However, alcohol producing companies influence and control the government similarly to the USA.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.