[Characterization of the crack cocaine culture in the city of São Paulo: a controlled pattern of use]

Lúcio Garcia de Oliveira, Solange Aparecida Nappo
Revista de Saúde Pública 2008, 42 (4): 664-71

OBJECTIVE: To characterize the situation regarding crack cocaine use in the city of São Paulo, along with the sociodemographic profile of its users.

METHODOLOGICAL PROCEDURES: Qualitative ethnographic study carried out with an intentional sample of crack cocaine users (n=45) and former users (n=17). The participants were recruited by means of the chain sampling method and they underwent a semi-structured interview guided by a questionnaire, in 2004 and 2005. The combination of each question and its respective responses gave rise to specific reports that were interpreted individually. ANALYSIS OF THE RESULTS: The predominating profile of the crack cocaine users was that they were single young men of low socioeconomic class and low schooling level, without formal employment ties. The pattern of use most frequently cited was compulsive, characterized by multiple drug use and carrying out illegal activities in exchange for crack cocaine or money. However, controlled use was also identified. This consisted of non-daily use of crack cocaine mediated by individual factors that were developed intuitively by the user. Controlled use was similar in nature to the strategies adopted by former users to achieve a state of abstinence.

CONCLUSIONS: The culture of crack cocaine use has undergone changes regarding the pattern of use. Although most users do so compulsively, the existence of controlled use was observed. This deserves to be investigated in more detail, particularly with regard to the strategies adopted to attain this.

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