Colombia is pursuing an approach to drug addiction untested in the United States—transitioning people from harder drugs to marijuana. The country experiences widespread addiction to a drug called basuco, which is similar to crack cocaine, provides a short and powerful high, and may contain ash, crushed bricks, or residue of kerosene. In Colombia’s capital city of Bogota, an estimated 7,000 “problem users” use the drug up to 15-20 times a day. Priced at $1 a hit, the drug is popular with a poorer population.
To address the social and health risks of basuco, the city of Bogota may set up a pilot program to see if marijuana can help people transition out of using basuco and deal with withdrawal symptoms. The city will set up “controlled consumption centers” where drug users can ease out of drug use. At the centers, staff will reduce people’s drug dose, then change the way the dose is administered (from injecting to smoking, for instance), and then transition people to smoking marijuana. Julián Quintero, from the drug policy non-profit organization Acción Técnica Social, said of the new plan, “What you’re looking for is for the person to reach a point where they can stabilize the consumption and that the consumption doesn’t prevent them from being functional.”
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