Cocaine-related problems in the city of Sao Paulo, 1982-1986


Data source


Author: A. A. da MATTA CHASIN, A. F. MIDIO
Pages: 99 to 101
Creation Date: 1989/01/01

Cocaine-related problems in the city of Sao Paulo, 1982-1986

A. A da MATTA CHASIN Medical-Legal Institute
A.F. MIDIO Professor of Toxicology, College of Pharmaceutical Science, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil


From 1982 to 1986, there was an overall increase in the number and amount of illicit cocaine seized at Sao Paulo. There was a total of 1,552 seizures of illicit cocaine, which were confirmed by testing in the laboratory of the Technical Service of Forensic Toxicology, a section of the Medical-Legal Institute of Sao Paulo. -the increase in cocaine seizures was accompanied by an increase in cocaine-related mortality. Although there were no cocaine-related deaths reported in the city before 1982, there was an increasing trend in the number of such deaths during the five-year period that followed.


The illicit traffic in and use of cocaine are assuming alarming proportions and are presenting enormous health and social problems in Brazil.

Epidemiological studies of drug abuse, the results of which can help in the design and development of appropriate drug-abuse prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, social reintegration and control programmes are scarce in Brazil [ 1-6] . The trends observed in the city of Sao Paulo with respect to illicit cocaine seizures and cocaine-related mortality for the period from 1982 to 1986, which are presented in this article, may prove useful for the assessment of cocaine-related problems in Brazil in general. The data can be used as indirect indicators [ 7] in studying the prevalence and incidence of cocaine abuse and other related problems.

Data source

The present study is based on data obtained from the registers of the Technical Service of Forensic Toxicology, a section of the Medical-Legal

Institute of Sao Paulo that tests in its laboratory all suspected substances seized by law enforcement agencies within the city 1 . -The authors limited this study to those entries for which samples taken from seized substances tested positive for the presence of cocaine products (powder, leaves, solution, paste).

Data on mortality related to illicit cocaine use were obtained from records of emergency treatment and rehabilitation centres in the city during the period from 1982 to 1986.


Illicit cocaine seizures began to rise dramatically in 1982. As indicated in the table below, during the period from 1982 to 1986, there were l ,552 seizures of illicit cocaine, as confirmed by laboratory testing. The number of cocaine seizures each year increased from 45 in 1982 to 675 in 1986. Of the total number of seizures in that period, 2.9 per cent occurred in 1982 and 43.5 per cent in 1986.

Cocaine seizures in the Sao Paulo area, as confirmed by laboratory testing, 1982-1986


Number of cocaine seizures

Share (percentage)

1982 45 2.9
1983 164 10.6
1984 364 23.4
1985 304 19.6
1986 675 43.5
1552 100.0

Of the total number of seizures of illicit drugs in the Sao Paulo area, seizures of cocaine accounted for 0.53 per cent in 1982, l.70 per cent in 1983, 3.78 per cent in 1984, 2.87 per cent in 1985 and 5.85 per cent in 1986.

In 1982, the first death related to illicit cocaine use was reported at Sao Paulo; in 1983, there were two cocaine-related deaths; in 1984 and in 1985, three; and in 1986, nine.

The increase in cocaine seizures, together with the increase in cocaine-related mortality during the same period, are indicative of upward trends in the prevalence and incidence of illicit cocaine use in the city of Sao Paulo. These observations support the findings of authors reporting on trends in cocaine-related deaths in other countries [ 10-12] .

1It should be noted that the laboratory is equipped only with basic devices and has no sophisticated apparatus. Nevertheless, it was possible to analyse and identify the substances by using organic solvent, thin-layer chromatography [ 8] and gas-liquid chromatography [ 9] .



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