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Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Get Ready for Paco

If you haven't heard of Paco, you will soon.

Paco is the street name for a cheap, powerful drug that is becoming the scourge of South America. It's a chemical byproduct, a leftover that is created when Andean coca leaves are turned into a paste. It used to be that paco was thrown in the trash at drug labs, but at one point dealers discovered it could be sold in the slums of Argentina and Chile, to the poorest of the poor, people who normally wouldn't be considered viable drug customers.

Paco is smoked, rather than sniffed, and psychologists say it causes lasting physical and cognitive damage. The health ministry in Buenos Aires says paco can cause death in less than six months of use. Paco goes for about 30 cents a dose, which will give the user an intense two-minute high.

The drug has become one of the biggest problems in cities like BA and Santiago, where it's now likened to the the crack epidemic that hit America in the 80's. In one month, provincial police in Argentina seized 7,000 doses of paco in 19 different raids. Four years ago, the drug was completely unknown. Now police say it's spreading from the slums to the middle- and upper-class neighborhoods. And Argentinian officials says its arrival in the United States is an inevitability.

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