(Spanish, Pasta de Cocaina
) is a smokable, cheap, and highly addictive street drug
. It is a chemical byproduct
left over when Andean coca
leaves are turned into a paste and then formulated into cocaine
bound for US
markets. Formerly considered lab trash, the substance became popular in the impoverished Argentinian
neighborhoods after the country's 2001
The use underscores a significant shift in both Argentina and its larger neighbour, Brazil
, which in just a few years have become sizable cocaine consumers. Brazil now ranks as the second largest total consumer of cocaine in the world after the United States, the State Department says.
The combination of the toxins in the drug lead to physiological addiction. Because it is smoked and includes waste products of pure cocaine production, the drug can cause lasting physical damage. Buenos Aires' provincial government says that intense paco consumption can cause "cerebral death" in as little as six months. In Argentina, paco used to go for about 30 cents (USD) a dose, enough for a powerful two-minute high. . However, lately, its price has gone up as a result of a higher demand, among other causes.
Drug gangs in the slums produce the pure cocaine powder out of unprocessed cocaine. Paco addicts often work for dealers as informers and, given their habit, stand by the drug gangs even in dangerous situations.
Paco use tripled between 2001 and 2005, according to one study. About half of men aged 14-30 said they take the drug on a regular basis, according to a recent opinion poll carried out in slums on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
The drug is also the most used among the general population, according to the poll. Of those who admitted they were drug users, 47 per cent took paco, with marijuana, cocaine and substances such as glue lagging far behind.
Kelly Hearn, a concerned citizen, has written:
- Users describe being hooked by the first use, of needing more, sacrificing everything and eventually ending up as bone-thin, wraith-like addicts who sell clothes and household appliances, turn to crime, all to keep up the flow of “dosis,” or packets that cost around 30 cents and provide a high that lasts only a few minutes.
- Leonardo Gorbacz, a national lawmaker who was involved in the study headed by Elisa Carrió, said Argentine government officials estimate 400,000 doses of paco are consumed each day in Argentina.
- Andres Milleranova claims that usage of the drug has increased substantially in neighbouring Uruguay, and that currently 100,000-150,000 doses are consumed each day in the city of Montevideo.