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Changing Cocaine Use Practices: Neo-liberalism, HIV-AIDS, and Death in an Argentine Shantytown

NCJ Number
Substance Use & Misuse Volume: 38 Issue: 9 Dated: 2003 Pages: 1189-1216
Maria E. Epele Ph.D.
Date Published
28 pages
This article discusses how drug-use practices have changed during the last years and how they are understood and explained by long-term drug users in Buenos Aires (Argentina).
Research was conducted for a period of 8 months in 2001-2002 with an active cocaine-using population in one of the many shantytowns located in southern Buenos Aires. The objective of the study was to determine the characteristics of drug use practices, their changes, and their relationships to the logic of HIV risk. Data were documented from three different sources: interviews, participant-observation, and oral histories. Results show that the changes in cocaine use patterns have taken place in a setting characterized by not only the fast growth of social inequality, poverty, and social exclusion, but also the state’s withdrawal from many sensitive areas of everyday life in shantytowns. The transformation from cocaine injection to cocaine sniffing dominance can be understood by considering the multiple changes that have modified the drug users’ everyday lives, such as the dissolution of the extended drug-using social networks and the rupture of moral codes that regulate relationships among drug users. Current cocaine use patterns have resulted from a combination of factors. The many deaths by AIDS and shootings experienced by cocaine injectors of the previous generation are one factor. The deteriorating economic situation is another. Changes in police repression is yet another. Other issues that need to be documented and analyzed further in order to understand the processes of HIV risk among drug users are the relationships between drug-injecting users and drug users that carry out other modes of use, gender relationships among drug users, sexual practices and their changes, and sex work inside and outside the neighborhoods. 27 references


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