The cost of treating someone addicted to drugs in Brazil is around US$ 500,00 a month. It may seem small amount for such a serious issue and for a developed country. However this is a extremely high price for families, whose average monthly income is at the maximum US$ 300,00 per month.
In many cases, the children are initiated at a very young age to make use of drugs, especially in the very poor areas, where many times the parents have to work long hours to be able to survive, and there are no recreational facilities or day care centers available. Many times , drug dealers may even initiate the long road to drug addiction inside schools.
This is the case of Carlos Morais (not his real name). Morais was introduced to crack by his former boss, the owner of a shoe repair store, who was addicted to crack, cocaine and sniffing glue himself. At the time, in order to help his mother, Morais was forced to work at the age of 13.
His mother had already been abandoned by her husband, Morais’s biological father, when he was two years old. The kid’s mother got married a second time.
Morais had no better luck. His stepfather started abusing him physically at the age of 3 and after 5 years of physical and psychological abuse and even death threats, the stepfather took off with all his mother savings leaving them in misery. He ran away from home at the age of 15, and lived on the beach among many other kids addicted to drugs, fleeing from police.
I contacted many institutions in order to find out the cost of a drug addict in São Paulo, Brazil. At Casa de Terapia (Therapy House) in Cotia, interior of São Paulo, for example, Pastor Nelson informed me that it costs 800,00 reais (US$ 469) monthly. They do not offer free treatment.
At the CAPS – (Centro de Atenção Psicossocial para Dependentes de Álcool e Drogas – Center of Psychosocial Care for Drugs and Alcohol Dependency) , the number of patients looking for assistance has increased to 20 per day. The center assists 80 patients per day.
Many are the difficulties of those seeking treatment against the addiction. First the embarrassment and the neglect of the family. In many cases the family ostracizes the individual, that is what happened to Morais.
“When I told my family what happened, they’d rather see the devil, than see me again,” he said.
The second problem is to find a vacancy in a hospital. Although the CAPS in many regions of Brazil do provide assistance and therapy for many cases involving drug dependency, many of them do not provide hospitalization.
The third difficulty is the cost. Many of these patients have to pay at least US$ 200,00 per month, a cost that many families in Brazil are unable to pay. There has never been any information indicating that the money recovered from the police regarding drug apprehension profits has been used to help some institutions to provide free treatment.
According to Maria Virginia Agostini, Coordinator for the social and mental Psychology Secretary of Caxias do Sul city, each case of hospitalization must be evaluated by CAPS, the problem is that out of 200 units, only 30 is free:
“The demand is high, and we do not have enough units available for free, if you decide to opt for treatment through SUS – Unified Health System, there will be only 5 beds available.” In Caxias do Sul, in Brazil’s South, there are 5 rehab centers available, none of them offered by the government.
While the government still invests heavily in sending out troops to combat traffic, it may be also imperative to provide mechanisms to re-educate and rehab individuals, many of which are minors just like Morais. Killing drug dealers is not the only work to be done.
Edison Bernardo DeSouza is a journalist, having graduated in Social Communication Studies at Pontifical Catholic University in São Paulo, Brazil . He lived in the US and Canada for close to 12 years and participated in volunteering activities in social works agencies.
DeSouza currently lives in São Paulo where he teaches English as a Second Language for both private English Language Institute and Private High-School. He is currently participating as an actor in two English Musicals in Sao Paulo – Brazil and is pursuing further advancements in his career. He is particularly interested in economics, history, politics and human rights articles.
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