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Brazilian female crack users show elevated serum aluminum levels

Usuárias brasileiras de crack apresentam níveis séricos elevados de alumínio

OBJECTIVE: There is no information in the literature on the impact of crack smoking using crushed aluminum cans as makeshift pipes, a common form of crack use in Brazil. Since aluminum intake is associated with neurological damage, we measured serum aluminum levels in crack smokers. The objective of this study was to ascertain the levels of aluminum in crack users who smoke on makeshift aluminum pipes. METHOD: 71 female crack smokers, their mean age being 28.0 (± 7.7), provided information about their drug use, and had blood samples tested for serum aluminum level. RESULTS: 56 (79%) subjects smoked crack from crushed can pipes, while 15 (21%) smoked from other containers. Fifty-two (73.2%) out of the 71 subjects presented a serum aluminum level of 2 µg/l and 13 (18.3%) had a serum aluminum level of 6 µg/l cut-off point, which is above the reference value. When compared to non-drug users matched by their mean age and gender, they had similar median values and interquartile ranges for serum aluminum level [3 (2-4.6) for crack smokers; 2.9 (1.6-4.1) for controls], but with different means and standard deviations (4.7 ± 4.9 and 2.9 ± 1.7, respectively). DISCUSSION: Crack smokers have high serum aluminum level, but we are unsure of its complete association with aluminum cans. Further studies are needed. If such association is proven true in future research, further issues will be raised in dealing with this important disorder, including proper planning and evaluation of public health policies in this area.

Aluminum; Crack cocaine; Public health; Toxicity; Serum


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