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Treatment of drug dependence with Brazilian herbal medicines

Tratamento da dependência de drogas com plantas medicinais brasileiras

The topic "Herbal Medicines in the Treatment of Addictions" in a country must be preceded by answers to four questions: 1. Does the country in question possess a biodiversity rich enough to allow the discovery of useful medicines? 2. Do local people have tradition and culture to look for and use resources from Nature to alleviate and cure diseases, including drug dependence? 3. Is drug dependence (or addiction) present in the country in question? 4. Do people of that country recognize and diagnose such problem as a serious one? Alcohol is, by far, the most serious health problem when drug abuse is considered, reaching all of Brazilian society, including the Indians. On the contrary, other drugs may be considered as minor problems and they are not the main focus of this manuscript. The people living in Brazilian hinterland don’t have access to public health systems. Consequently, these people seek assistance from "curandeiros" and "raizeiros"; the Indians are assisted by the shaman. These "folk doctors" do not know the academic medicine and therapeutics, and resort to the local plants to treat different ailments of their patients. Furthermore, alcohol abuse and dependence are not recognized by them, according to the rules and criteria of academic medicine. We have conducted a survey in many Brazilian books, Thesis concerning phytotherapy, and several databank. The results of such searches were very disappointing. No published papers from Brazilian authors concerning the use of plants for the treatment of addictions were found in the databases and there were only three very short notes in the masterly book written by Shultes and Raffauf (1990). From the Brazilian books on folk medicine employing medicinal plants, ten mentions were disclosed: most of them dealing with treatment of alcohol problems and two to counteract "Ayahuasca" dependence.

Medicinal plants; drug dependence; alcoholism; Brazil; treatment; biodiversity

Sociedade Brasileira de Farmacognosia Universidade Federal do Paraná, Laboratório de Farmacognosia, Rua Pref. Lothario Meissner, 632 - Jd. Botânico, 80210-170, Curitiba, PR, Brasil, Tel/FAX (41) 3360-4062 - Curitiba - PR - Brazil