From the Brazilian X-Files: “Guess I’ll Have to Break the News, That I Got No Mind To Lose”

“Is it a safe drug? … A gven drug might harm some while being harmless, or even beneficial, to others.” The State of São Paulo’s scientific research funding agency backs a “harm reduction” pamphlet, distributed among “club kid” consumers that suggests that some consumption of pyschotropic drugs without medical supervision might be good for some people. Imagine that as a government warning label on tabs of Mickey Mouse brand blotter acid. And yes, USP apparently does have a (publicly-funded) psychopharmacological R&D factory.

Writing on the Web site of the Instituto Brasileiro Giovanni Falcone, Judge Maierovitch — a regular “spies and mafias” columnist for CartaCapital magazine and a former Brazilian drug policy czar — adds a note to the great Brazilian Ecstasy controversy of 2007.

A minor flap erupted earlier this year over a state-funded “harm reduction” program targeting the use of Ecstasy as a “club drug” in São Paulo. See

There is a very peculiar political and legal push here in Brazil to challenge the conventional wisdom that “traditional” medical supervision ought to play a central role in formulating public policy on the regulation and control of psychoactive substances. See

In the case I gist for you there, state funds and facilities were supplied to support experiments in the use of ayahuasca on homeless subjects as a “shamanic” cure for “the disease of welfare dependency,” under the supervision of persons without medical qualifications.

Which I find just too jaw-droppingly weird for words.

One of the most grotesque aspects of it being that Brazilian states continue to defend a policy of repressing drug supply using indiscriminate deadly force, while this project advocates a “harm-reduction” approach to the issue of drug demand. See

The other grotesque aspect of it being the argument that “traditional” medical ethics governing research on human subjects “impedes innovation.”

As in “We want to experiment on the brains and minds of human guinea pigs without their informed consent. And what is so wrong with that?”

Once upon a time at Harvard University there were two young psychology professors, Leary and Alpert, with a government contract and a similar mandate …

The issue has reached U.S. courts as well, in the form of Gonzales v. O Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal, in which a ban on the substance is challenged on Constitutional grounds as a violation of the religious freedoms of a U.S. chapter of a “neo-ayahuasqueiro” sect — bankrolled by one of the billion-dollar babies of the Seagrams empire, of all things. See

Maierovitch’s take on the Ecstasy flap: “Research shows that Fat Freddy was right: Peed skills. Skeed pills. Er, Speed kills.” Kills brain cells, that is.

I would be interested to know what Judge Maierovitch makes of the Zhenli Ye Gon case — the DEA’s “man behind the meth” — in Mexico. Ecstasy is methamphetamine-based, and you read, with respect to that case, that the coke and crank cartels in Northern Mexico are quite high on this new product line.

O jornal Folha de S.Paulo publicou neste domingo matéria sobre o aumento das apreensões de ecstasy no Brasil, a indicar maior demanda.

The Folha de S. Paulo newspaper published an article on Sunday about the rise in seizures of Ecstasy in Brazil, indicating a higher demand for the drug.

Segundo dados da polícia federal, houve um aumento nas apreensões na ordem de 725%, comparado com o ano anterior. Ou seja, 157 mil apreensões contra 19 mil do ano anterior.

According to data from the federal police, there was an increase in seizures on the order of 725% over the previous year. That is, 157,000 seizures as compared to 19,000 in the previous year.

Não vou repetir a análise que fiz ao jornal. Prefiro alertar, mais uma vez (confira neste blog) , para a chegada no mercado europeu e norte-americano do ecstasy líquido . Cada ampola custa 60 euros e é misturada com bebida alcoólica.

I will not repeat the analysis the newspaper puts forth. I prefer to warn you once again of the arrival on the European and North American market of liquid ecstasy. Each ampule costs 60 euros and the drug is mixed with alcoholic beverages.

Como tudo chega ao Brasil em matéria de droga ilícita, em 2008 o ecstasy líquido poderá estar nas raves do nosso país.

Given that all sorts of illegal drugs eventually find their way to Brazil, I predict that liquid X could well show up at Brazilian raves in 2008. 

Pesquisas recentes na Austrália e Espanha concluíram que o consumo de ecstasy pode causar lesões cerebrais, perda de memória e de neurônios.

Recent studies in Australia and Spain concluded that Ecstasy consumption could cause brain injury, memory loss, and destruction of brain cells.

Perhaps under the harm reduction theory promoted by USP Psychopharmacology, FAPESP and our own state assemblywoman, Soninha — the former MTV veejay is seen frequently at neo-ayahuasca conferences and on public TV, defending legalization, when not judging international blogging contests, and was a primary sponsor and defender of the “X-files” project — some people are actually better off being allowed to lobotomize themselves.

Na Universidade de Valência (Espanha), estudo científico revelou que o consumo acarreta o desaparecimento de 40% dos neurônios produzidos por pessoa adulta.

A study at the University of Valenica should that consuming the drug leads to the extinction of 40% of the neuron production in an adult brain.

Outro dado preocupante são os problemas causados no fígado do usuário, a causar graves insuficiências hepáticas.

Another worrying piece of information concerns the liver problems found in users, where critical failures can be caused.

Em regra, um comprimido de ecstasy tem efeito psicoativo por 4 horas. Esse efeito começa a parecer cerca de meia-hora depois do consumo. A abstinência provoca ansiedade e muitas vezes gera depressão.

As a rule, an Ecstasy tablet has a psychoactive effect that lasts 4 hours. This effect begins to manifest itself a half-hour after consumptions. Withdrawal causes anxiety and often generates depression.

O ecstasy é chamado de a nova droga do amor , pois o seu consumo é associado à música eletrônica, à dança e às festas (tipo rave).

Ecstasy is known as the love drug, because its use is associated with electronic music, dance and rave-style parties.

And because of certain emotional effects it produces.

Para agüentar as longas festas, muitos ingerem ecstasy, que reduz a fadiga. Uma das medidas necessárias, — no campo da redução de danos e riscos–, é a obrigatoriedade de instalação de bebedouros nos locais de festas e danceterias. Isto porque o usuário transpira muita e perde líquido.

To keep them going through these long parties, many take X to reduce fatigue. One of the measures needed, from the point of view of risk-management and harm-reduction — is the obligatory installation of drinking fountains in dance clubs and parties. This because the user sweats heavily and can suffer dehydration.

O maior consumidor mundial de ecstasy é a Austrália, seguida da Grã Bretanha. Na Austrália, 3,4% da população consome ecstasy para finalidade recreativa. Em fevereiro, a atriz Birtney Spears internou-se para desintoxicação e revelou ser dependente de ecstasy.

Australia is the world’s biggest consumer of the drug, followed by Great Britain.

Does this explain Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch?

In Australia, 3.4% of the population consume ecstasy for recreational purposes. In February, actress [sic] Britney Spears checking into rehab and announced she was dependent on the drug.

Enquanto aumentam a oferta e o consumo de ecstasy, o governo brasileiro não se anima a iniciar campanhas de esclarecimentos e investimentos na área de pesquisa. Lamentável. No particular, Lula repete FHC.

As the supply and consumption of Ecstasy grows, the Brazilian government has not been very high on [my bad pun, not the author’s –Ed.] educational campaigns and investment in research. Which is too bad. Specficially, the Lula government is following the Cardoso government’s example in this area.

And the educational campaigns we have seen seem simply to ignore the medical risk, under the theory that “traditional” public health methodologies and medical-scientific approaches are somehow obsolete.

On the other hand, you would think that a higher priority given to drug interdiction under the current government — even if it comes late — would be welcomed as a positive development by our drug czar, and viewed as part of the general antimafia crusade the federal police is engaged in.

As always, I think you have to be careful in assuming that a higher rate of interdictions necessarily means a higher supply, rather than a higher priority afforded to detection and enforcement.

See, for example

As the body of that report makes pretty clear, it would be more accurate and honest to headline the story, “detection of human trafficking cases increases six-fold.”

Let me have a look at the Folha report.


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