Oxi: New Dangerous Drug Spreads In Brazil
More powerful than cocaine and more deadly too. A new drug is sweeping Brazil and leaving death in its wake.
It’s cheaper, perhaps more powerful and definitely more dangerous than even crack cocaine. The new illicit drug is “oxi,” known, The Rio Times of Brazil notes, “as the drug of death” because those hooked on it often die within a year. But what it amounts to before death is an attempt by users to turn themselves into insensible zombies.
One Brazilian user of the drug described the experience to Al Jazeera reporter Gabriel Elizondo. Oxi, the user said, “is to make my mind go to sleep.”
Derived from cocaine, oxi (short for oxidado or “rust”) may also contain kerosene or gasoline as well as acetone, battery acid or assorted other chemicals. The drug is smoked and has a nearly instantaneous effect.
"The pleasure of this drug is at this very moment. When you inhale, it's the first five seconds that is the ecstasy of this drug, when it comes to your brain. You feel your ear making a buzzing sound. You forget everything,” the unidentified user told Al Jazeera.
According to Al Jazeera, oxi is relatively easily made, more so than other cocaine-derived drugs. As a result, it is increasingly easy to get, especially in Brazil, and it is very cheap. The Rio Times notes that “small crack-like stones” of the drug sell as little as $1.20 (US) on the streets of São Paulo. That city, by the way, has the dubious distinction of hosting an area in the city’s center known as “Cracolândia” where, the paper says, “hundreds of homeless crack addicts reside.”
The effects of oxi on users are devastating. The Rio Times notes: “Users take on a yellowish skin color, lose weight very quickly and develop liver problems. They start to look like emaciated living corpses in just a few weeks time. The drug causes stomach aches, vomiting and constant diarrhea, but perhaps the most alarming fact is that most users die within a year.”
Use of oxi has exploded in Brazil since 2005. According to Al Jazeera, “Oxi has already gripped most of Brazil's seven northern states that make up the Amazon region, and in recent months it has been seen in large population centres in the south of Brazil.”
And while the drug used to mainly used by the extremely poor, that is changing as the drug spreads. “It's also now being used more and more by middle and upper-middle class,” researcher Alvaro Mendes told Al Jazeera.
According to The Narco News Bulletin, a Website with a tag line that says it reports “on the Drug War from all America,” Mendes works with the Acre Harm Reduction Network (Portuguese acronym: REARD). That group pioneered the study of oxi use beginning by investigating, according to Narco News, 75 cases of people using it and similar drugs made from “the discarded leftovers of Bolivian cocaine production.”
According to Narco News, the spread of oxi into Brazil is tied with cocaine trafficking from Bolivia. “The most common route used in the production of cocaine, oxi, and mescla, according to sources at REARD, begins in Peru, going towards Bolivia through Brazil, where the roads are better, until it reaches the Bolivian Amazon, where it is transformed into cocaine, crack, or mescla. Then, it returns to Brazil.”
Poor and unemployed people living near this trafficking route were first to use oxi. “Aside from the social problems that clearly push these youths into using the drug, their proximity to the smuggling route also opens the doors to them,” Narco News said.
Mendes, speaking to Al Jazeera, put in stark terms the danger the new drug represents.
"In the 15 years I have been working with chemical dependency, I have never seen a drug with such a potential of destruction as Oxi,” he said.