Brazil is the world's largest market for crack and the second for overall cocaine use, researchers from the Federal University of Sao Paulo (UNIFESP) said Wednesday.
A survey by UNIFESP's National Institute of Science and Technology for Public Policy on Alcohol and Other Drugs found that
four percent of Brazil's adult population -- nearly six million people -- have experimented with cocaine or its derivatives in their lives.
Among adolescents, the percentage reached three percent or 442,000 youths.
Over the past year, 2.6 million adults and 244,000 adolescents said they used the drugs.
Ronaldo Laranjeira, who coordinated the study, said the South American powerhouse was now the world's biggest consumer of crack.
"No other country has one million crack users currently," the website G1 quoted Laranjeira as saying.
The study said Brazil, where rising prosperity has expanded the middle class, trails only the United States in terms of total use of cocaine and derivatives, with 20 percent of global consumption.
Brazil, the sixth largest economy, has 2.8 million consumers, trailing the United States with 4.1 million, while the rest of South America has 2.4 million, according to the study.
The study said roughly two million Brazilians -- 1.4 percent of adult and one percent of youths -- have used crack, merla (crack and marijuana mixed as cigarettes) or oxi -- a highly addictive hallucinogenic twice as powerful and one fifth cheaper than crack -- at least once in their lives.
One in 100 adults was found to have used crack in the past year.
The study said Brazil, until recently a transit point for cocaine bound for Europe, was now a consumer of the drug.
Up to 60 percent of the cocaine produced in Bolivia is destined for Brazil.
The study covered a representative sample of the 194-million-strong Brazilian population -- 4,600 people aged 14 and over -- in 149 cities across the country.
It cited recent data from the Geneva-based World Health Organization singling out Brazil as one of the emerging countries where use of cocaine and its derivatives is increasing at a time when cocaine consumption is dropping in the most developed nations, replaced by use of synthetic drugs.
"In the past, cocaine was the champagne of drugs -- today, it's the beer," G1 quoted Laranjeira as saying.
Intranasal cocaine use was found to be the most common choice of Brazilians.
The country's southeast, the wealthiest region, was found to have 46 percent of the total number of users, followed by the northeast with 27 percent and the north and center-west with 10 percent each.
Last December, health minister Alexandre Padilha warned that the country was facing "a crack epidemic" and the government responded with a $2.2 billion plan focusing on prevention, care and repression.
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