New book (in portuguese): Drugs, Public Policy and Consumers

Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Frederico Policarpo, Sandra Lucia Goulart and Pablo O. Rosa (editors)

Publisher: Editora Mercado de Letras and Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies (NEIP)

lancamento livroAbstract: This book examines representations of psychoactive substance consumption and discusses the various theoretical and methodological instruments that allow us to understand patterns of consumption, including their effects and the controls surrounding them. It covers a multiplicity of discourses and practices that coexist around “drugs.” Both the strategies of control on the consumption experiences and those mobilized to assure this consumption are considered in terms of their own logic and specificity. The chapters demonstrate that certain dominant discourses are not necessarily appropriate as an external reference for the interpretation of the other discourses: What the officers of the law and of public health agencies say and do is just as valid as that said and done by those who consume ayahuasca, alcohol, crack or Ritalin. In this regard, the book aims to problematize the “medical-legal” paradigm. At the same time, it seeks to overcome the dichotomy of “pharmacological effects” versus “cultural aspects,” while promoting dialogue among various fields of knowledge so as to problematize and produce knowledge from a more integrated point of view. To achieve these goals, the book includes three interrelated sections of enquiry: 1) ethnographies on consumption practices of “drugs,” “plants,” and “medicines”; 2) regulations and controls on “drugs”: legislative, courts of justice, and police stations; and 3) analyses of health services, and care and treatment of persons who use psychoactive substances.

Table of Contents:

Michel Misse

Discourses and Practices about Drug Use: Perspectives in Social Sciences.
Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Frederico Policarpo, Sandra Lucia Goulart, Pablo Ornelas Rosa

Part I: Drugs and Culture
1. Psychoactives, Culture, and Controls: Contributions of Anthropology to the Public Debate in Brazil

Taniele Rui & Beatriz Caiuby Labate

This paper presents an historical overview of the field of drug studies from the perspective of the social sciences. Classic authors, like Howard Becker, Norman Zinberg, and Gilberto Velho, among others, developed analytic approaches toward “drug effects” as social and cultural phenomena. Though these concepts have entered public debates almost to the point of becoming truisms, the radical realization of this principle comes in stark conflict with the dominant medical and legal paradigms concerning drug use. Going beyond the idea that “the context shapes the experience,” we argue that informal and cultural controls regulate the use of drugs in various contexts and explore how these controls interact with formal and legal controls. Several case studies of how drug use is regulated in specific cultural settings are presented; we look at traditional indigenous contexts (peyote, ayahuasca), non-indigenous urban religious use (Santo Daime), recreational settings (MDMA, alcohol, raves) and also situations of problematic drug use (street drugs, drug use in prisons). From these case studies, we suggest that drug use can occur in non-problematic ways not only in traditional, indigenous settings, but also in contemporary, urban contexts. In sum, we conclude that drug use is always subject to social controls, even in contexts of “abuse.” We finish by suggesting that neither a model of criminalization of drug use nor a model of health and reduction of risk is sufficient; it is necessary to recognize the cultural legitimacy of drug use based on a human rights perspective.

2. Creativity and Dynamics of a Drug Market: Smart Shops in Lisbon

Antonio Rafael Barbosa

In this chapter, I propose to examine a subject whose interest has increased in recent decades.  It is about the continuous invention of new synthetic drugs and the market created around them. I take the “smart shops” in Lisbon as a case study to develop some reflections on the dynamics of “illegalisms” and the relations between nature and artificiality.

3.  Psychopharmacological and Smart drugs:  Methylphenidate and Performance

Eleonora Bachi Coelho

Methylphenidate is a pharmaceutical drug with psychoactive stimulant action, and is usually known by one of its commercial names: “Ritalin”. Considering the current data showing its growing consumption and the constant controversy about its usage, the present paper aims to confront the boundaries between medical and non-medical use of the pharmaceutical medicine and drug, through an analysis of both the meanings and the moral issues that are raised by methylphenidate users. Methylphenidate will be used as a common thread to access the narratives involving its use and the social meanings that are implicated. This study is part of an ongoing master`s thesis research and it aims to make evident the use of methylphenidate for enhancement and the thin, porous line with its use for therapeutic purposes. Three topics will be approached from the analyses of material gathered in interviews with consumers of the pharmaceutical: 1) a case of medical usage, 2) conflicting cases, and 3) ambiguity feelings related to the medicine. Finally, one can see that the medicine implies strength and success for most of those interviewed, without being necessarily connected with health or quality of life demands.

4. Ayahuasca and Cultural Policies: Public Recognition Strategies of Ayahuasca Religions

Sandra Lucia Goulart

This chapter makes an analysis of the recognition of the ritual use of the ayahuasca psychoactive brew as intangible heritage of Brazilian culture by some religious groups that make the use of this drink the center of their ceremonies. The goal is to point to the strategies and arguments that are privileged by these groups in their mobilization by recognition of the use of ayahuasca as national cultural heritage, working with the hypothesis that this mobilization implies a transformation of the ways of relating these religious groups with other spheres of society and the state. There has been a change in the form of public presentation of these religions: the association with the debate on drug passes to the definition of religion as culture. I compare this process experienced by ayahuasquero religious groups with the case of other Brazilian religions. The analogy is meant to point out how different definitions of religion were built on the social legitimation process of the Brazilian cults. I point especially to the junctures between the definitions of religion and culture in the process.

Part II: Public Policies, Legislation, and Law Enforcement

5. Researching with Crack Users: Methodological Reflections on the Experience of mapping the user profile in the Northeast of Brazil

Tatiane Vieira Barros and Jaína Linhares Alcantara

The proposed chapter presents a critical reflection on methodological pathways; it aims to map crack users’ profiles and that of similar people as well, in the northeast of Brazil. For this, the experience of anthropologists who worked on the research developed by a social studies foundation on health in the cities of Natal in Rio Grande do Norte and Fortaleza, Ceará, will be taken as the base of the proposed work. The purpose of this work is to show how crack users have been perceived in a social sphere that includes both ordinary citizens and researchers, and identifying the restrictions on the research conducted so far to understand this issue and the problems regarding it. It is necessary to understand that research with psychoactive substances users should take into account the role of the subject, their ways of doing the substance, and the related social issues. In this context, the stigma of drug use and the manipulation of information can be seen as something that involves the world of those who do drugs. Noticing body language, characteristics are seized upon that reinforce the stereotypes; at least, as they permeate the imagination of the researcher. Thus, the methodological place of anthropology in research with crack users will be raised and discussed here.

6. The Pacification of Crack Users and the Repression of Users: Notes From Ethnographies in São Paulo City

Rubens de Camargo Ferreira Adorno

This chapter intends to revisit ethnographies conducted since the late 1990s that focus on drug scenes, which were recorded in the street circuit in the city of São Paulo. It was supposed that drug use must be understood from the construction of subjectivity, corporeality, morals, identities, and life practices. This is a perspective within contemporary ethnographies, developed primarily as critical counterpoint to contemporary scientific techno devices that dominate the health services. The idea of “pacification of use” refers in turn to the control strategies that have been developed from their own use, actions, and reactions to the repressive policy and normative discourse of health, and also with the participation of the humanities and from the perspective of the right to use drugs.

7. Legalization or Prohibition? A Study About Discourses and Representations of National’s Congress Law Project on Drug Policy (2010-2014)

Nalayne Mendonça Pinto and Alessandra Fontana Oberling

The present work aims to analyze the social discourses and representations of the drug policy law projects currently in progress at the National Congress. Over the past four years, the debate regarding reform on drug policy has gained national attention due to legislative changes and to the international expansion of the debate; this follows a liberal tendency of broadening permissions to include recreational use and other purposes of illicit substances, especially marijuana. In contrast, proposals of penal intensification were presented at the National Congress in response to a supposed crack epidemic in the country. The goal was to increase penalties for trafficking crimes and others, maintain the prohibition of use, establish health policies towards total abstinence, and enact compulsory internment as a solution to chemical dependency. In this regard, the present work will identify and analyze discourses that underlie the elaboration of law projects currently in progress in the Brazilian parliament, which are: Law Project 37/2013, former Law Project 7663/2010 in progress at the Federal Senate; Law Project 7270/2014 in progress at the Chamber of Deputies; and Suggestion Number 8, the proposal of a legislative idea from a popular initiative from the Federal Senate web portal called “e-cidadania.” Thus, this study will point to discursive disputes that are not always based on conceptual controversies, but comprise the political scenery and inspire and mobilize actors in power disputes to assert their truths. 

8. The National Drug Policy and Judicial Practice

Artur Dalla Cypreste e Bernardo Berbert Molina

Since 2006, when the current drug law began to rule, the number of people incarcerated for drug dealing rose considerably, while at the same time the register of drug use fell in the same proportion. Our objective in this article is to analyze how social representations of  “drug dealing” and “drugs” affect the judicial practice, and how symbols are mobilized and expressed by magistrates, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and deponents’ discourses in trials of those accused of drug dealing in Rio de Janeiro. We seek to identify how variables, like origin and social status of defendants, are mobilized to classify them as dealers or users, and, in the case of those incriminated, how this interferes in the sentencing.   

9. Notes on the Indictment Processes of Consumers and Home Marijuana Growers in Brazil

Marcos Alexandre Veríssimo da Silva

The objective of this proposal is to present some considerations based on post-doctoral research I have been developing under the title of “Learning of Legal Practice” (PNPD-CAPES), through which I pursue further questions on the thesis. In this, I highlighted the practice of gardening as a way to create one’s own supply of  the marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.) plant, whose consumption and planting is criminalized by the Brazilian law. From a reading of the pleadings where people appear challenged in the courts for having marijuana plants, I have tried to apprehend the representations and moralities in structuring such criminal processes which defendants and defenders try to resist, often by building alternate identities that also activate their representations and structuring morals. Although, due to the secrecy of such gardens, one cannot estimate the number of people who adhere to this practice in Rio de Janeiro, my ethnography of the Rio growers groups infers that this number has grown in recent years. However, people have been accused as traffickers for such modes of gardening. Therefore, my proposal is to try to understand criminality and the identification processes involved in these processes, confronting them with what ethnography suggests.

Part III: Care Service and Treatment in Perspective

10. The Place Where Multiple Discourses on Drug Consumption Meet: Doing Research in a Psychosocial Center for Alcohol and Other Drugs in Rio De Janeiro

Frederico Policarpo

In this chapter, I discuss the healthcare offered to drug users in the city of Rio de Janeiro, based on my doctorate research when, for one year, I attended a Psychosocial Center for Alcohol and Other Drugs (Caps/ad) in the north area of the city. I will discuss how multiple discourses on drug consumption are presented in this space. The Caps/ad is a public service that opens from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., offers breakfast, evening snacks, and lunch, as well as groups and individual activities. In addition to attending the staff meetings, I focused my fieldwork on the courtyard inside the clinic, where I talked freely to patients. On one hand, my frequency in the courtyard made it possible to notice a multiplicity of discourse on drug use that circulates among patients, on the other hand, my participation in the staff meetings called my attention to the debate among professionals on staff to objectify patients’ actions on symptoms. The encounter between these two types of discourses on drug usethat I suggest can be summed up as discourse from the experience and about the experienceis the central theme of this chpater.

11. Addiction and its Care(s): Anthropological Gaze on the Consequences of Therapeutic Interventions Based on Patients’ Life Stories

Jardel Fischer Loeck

The main goal of this paper is to introduce some reflections on the healthcare network designed to aid psychoactive substance users from the perspective of the patients in this network. The present article rests on dissertation research held in four different therapeutic settings, focused on abstinence in the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil; two walk-in clinics, one therapeutic community, and Narcotics Anonymous groups; life stories of patients being treated in those therapeutic settings were also collected via interviews. The focus of the analysis is to reflect on episodes occurring during the life trajectories of those patients. Therefore, addiction is reflected upon as a process that, many times, unfolds through multiple institutional contacts on the space-time axis. At the same time, my intention is to show the heterogeneity of the social actors that, during the contact with those people, make addiction a concrete phenomenon. It is not about approaching therapeutic relations in terms of efficacy or success, but in terms of practical unfolding. The starting point is to presuppose that therapeutic interventions to addictionmainly addiction to illicit substancesbased on abstinence do not necessarily produce predictable consequences.

12. Events of Data Collection: Drugs, Interviewers and Research Participants in a Medical-Scientific Research

Eduardo Zanella

This article describes data collection conducted with drug users in scientific and medical research. Starting from the concept of “event,” the aim is to analyze the procedures necessary for its realization, with attention to the imponderables and transformations that take place at the moment of the scientific activity. I argue that the process of “manufacturing the research participants” involves the continuous quest for mitigating and reducing the effects of drug use on these subjects, in order to ensure the record of “real” data. Thus, this process places the drug users as the objects of the scientific activity, the raw material from which this research advances. In the end, the chapter refers to situations in which the patients do not behave as research participants, but as researchers themselves, subjects of knowledge in the sessions of data collection. These situations reveal that the power relations of subject-object within the scientific enterprise are defined from the higher or lower approximation of its agents in relation to drugs.

13. Harm Reduction and Entrepreneurship of Oneself: Drug Policy in Contemporary World Context

Pablo Ornelas Rosa

The first example of the politics of Harm Reduction occurred in England in the first half of twentieth century, when Sir Humphry Rolleston started prescribing methadone as the treatment for dependence on heroin. In Brazil, these examples started in 1989, in the city of Santos, São Paulo, with the distribution of condoms and syringes intended for the users of injectable cocaine. The main objective was to reduce the rate of  HIV/AIDS infection. As the majority of those who demanded the politics of Harm Reduction was composed of users or former users of drugs, it was possible to witness the emergence of social movements organized by these citizens who became professional agents in the field of reducing damages and disclosing their ideas of assuming control of themselves and others as regards the consumption of drugs. This chapter is a result of reflections, experiences, and extracted debates in research of master’s and doctoral studies that are based on analytical Foucaultian genealogy. This study shows how a certain professionalization of charged individuals to teach techniques occurred, something that Michel Foucault named “pastoral power,” also characterized by the control of behaviors through policing of the other.

To quote the book:

Labate, Beatriz C.; Policarpo, Frederico; Goulart, Sandra L.; Rosa, Pablo O. (eds). (2016). Drogas, políticas públicas e consumidores [Drugs, Public Policies and Consumers] Campinas, Brazil: Mercado de Letras; São Paulo, Núcleo Interdisciplinares de Estudos sobre Psicoativos (NEIP).

ISBN 978-85-7591-310-6


Editor’s biographies:

Bia Labate Los Cabos 2016 IBeatriz Caiuby Labate has a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil. Her main areas of interest are the study of psychoactive substances, drug policy, shamanism, ritual, and religion. She is Visiting Professor at the Center for Research and Post Graduate Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), in Guadalajara, Mexico. She is also co-founder of the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP), and editor of NEIP’s website ( She is author, co-author, and co-editor of fourteen books, one special-edition journal, and several peer-reviewed articles. For more information, see:

10. Frederico PolicarpoFrederico Policarpo
was born in 1980 in Rio de Janeiro. In 2004 he graduated in Social Science at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). In 2007, he concluded his Masters in Anthropology at Fluminense Federal University (UFF) with the dissertation: “The Terapeutic Justice Program of Rio de Janeiro”. In 2013, he finished his PhD in Anthropology at the same university with a thesis entitled “The drug consumption and its controls: a comparative perspective between the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and San Francisco, US”. In this work he established a comparison between his ethnographic descriptions on judicial hearings and treatment centers for drug users in both cities. Currently he conducts a fieldwork research on a medical cannabis association in Rio de Janeiro. He is professor of Anthropology at UFF, teaching to undergraduate students who are following a Public Policies degree. He is also researcher of the “Institute of Science and Technology – Institute for Comparative Studies in Conflict Administration” ( and of the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP).

13. Pablo RosaPablo Ornelas Rosa
é Pós-Doutor em Sociologia pela UFPR (2014), Doutor em Ciências Sociais pela PUC/SP (2012), Mestre em Sociologia Política (2008) e Bacharel em Ciências Sociais (2005) pela UFSC. Professor Titular I nos Programas de Pós-Graduação em Sociologia Política e em Segurança Pública da UVV/ES. É autor dos livros “Rock Underground: Uma Etnografia do Rock Alternativo” (Radical Livros, 2007), “Juventude Criminalizada” (Insular, 2010), “Sociologia Política” (Ed. IFPR, 2013) em co-autoria com Rodrigo Guidini Sonni, “Drogas e a Governamentalidade Neoliberal: Uma Genealogia da Redução de Danos”(Insular, 2014) e organizou com Rosângela de Sena e Silva “Juventude, Ativismo e Redução de Danos” (Ed. Casa/ Ministério da Saúde, 2010).

4. Sandra GoulartSandra Lucia Goulart
is an anthropologist, with a doctorate in social sciences from the State University of Campinas – Unicamp (2004), a master’s in social anthropology from the University of São Paulo – USP (1996), and a bachelor’s in social sciences, also from USP (1989). Her master’s degree and doctoral research focused on Brazilian religious expressions characterized by the use of the psychoactive drink known as ayahuasca, daime or vegetal. Many of her publications approach themes that are related to religious studies, such as Brazilian Catholicism traditions, new religious movements, religion and politics, and religious therapies. Goulart is also involved in research about the use of drugs in different contexts. In this field of study, her research for UNESCO, Drug Trafficking in an Urban Area: The Case of São Paulo (Mingardi & Goulart, 2002), about the use of crack in the city of São Paulo, stands out. Some other publications include: Drogas e Cultura: Novas Perspectivas [Drugs and Culture: New Perspectives] (2008); and O Uso Ritual das Plantas de Poder [The Ritual Use of Power Plants] (2005), both of which were co-organized by her. Currently, Goulart teaches anthropology at Faculdade Cásper Líbero in São Paulo. Goulart is also a member of the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP). For more information, see:


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