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War on drugs won’t work in Brazil

Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil.
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Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil.

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In our view, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s stance on the country’s addiction problems is too simplistic to counter the scale of the challenge. A national survey indicates that 1.3 million citizens were addicted to marijuana and 2.6 million were using crack cocaine last year (see go.nature.com/2qbhqks).

Bolsonaro has declared he will strengthen efforts against drug-trading organizations and to penalize them for any increases in drug-related violence. We are concerned that this merely reiterates the old ‘War on Drugs’ policy — namely, heavy repression of drug trafficking, punishment for users, racial discrimination, mass incarceration and limited access to treatment (see, for example, K. S. Fornili J. Addict. Nurs. 29, 65–72; 2018). The evidence against the efficacy of this outdated approach is compelling (see, for example, go.nature.com/2d7cqmr).

What is needed now is urgent reform of Brazil’s public-health system and new funding policies that will improve the structural and human resources necessary to tackle this nationwide problem.

Nature 565, 294 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00154-5

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