Sao Paulo to force treatment on crack addicts

Brazil's richest city Sao Paulo will start rounding up the most down-and-out crack addicts from its streets and make them get treatment whether they like it or not, an official says.

Rio de Janeiro is already doing this with minors, but the new program in Sao Paulo, South America's largest city, will target adults, said the justice secretary of Sao Paulo state, Eloisa de Sousa, in an interview with AFP.

For now 700 spots in the mandatory rehab program have been created. It will get started later this month.

Economic powerhouse Brazil is now considered the world's top consumer of crack, a cheap and highly addictive residue of cocaine-making, with a million users, says a recent study by the Federal University of Sao Paulo.

A downtown Sao Paulo crack slum was cleaned out in a wave of police raids a year ago. But dealers and users are now moving in back in by the hundreds.

De Sousa acknowledged the delicate nature of forcing treatment on people. She insisted however the program is for addicts so far gone they can no longer look after themselves.

"These are extreme cases, and we cannot just let people die," she said. "The state has to intervene."

The forced round-ups will be done under an agreement among the Sao Paulo state prosecutor's office, the state's highest court and the Brazilian bar association.

Addicts deemed helpless will be rounded up if requested by relatives or a team including police and a judge, the official said.

Brazil's congress plans to vote in February on a bill that toughens penalties for drug trafficking and calls for forced treatment for crack addicts all over the country.

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