Brazil’s Public Health System (SUS) Treated Me Free for GHB Poisoning

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – While traveling in Brazil during Carnival, I, unfortunately, was poisoned with a drug called GHB as part of a robbery. 

I want to thank the excellent doctors of the Brazilian Public Health System (SUS), the most extensive government-run healthcare system in the Americas, who treated me for GHB poisoning. In Brazil, medical care through the public health system is free, even for foreigners like me. Thank god they did because I was in a lot of pain, and they got me back to work. 

While attending Carnival festivities with friends in Rio de Janeiro, three men approached me and complimented me on my Landless Workers Movement (MST) hat. The hat has become a symbol of support for Lula. 

The men began to tell me how much they loved Lula, and, as a reporter, I naturally began listening to them and engaging in conversation. Over the years, I have made many great friends in Rio, and it started with simple discussions about politics in the street. 

Twenty minutes into the conversation, I felt euphoric and dizzy, like the room was spinning. Then I noticed that the group of three men had suddenly vanished. I also saw that my wallet and iPhone had disappeared with them.  

I started to stumble and felt like I was going to faint. Fortunately, I was there with some friends, who noticed something was off with me and got me home safely. 

Later tests by doctors in Brazil would show that I was drugged with an odorless, fast-acting date rape drug known as “GHB.” 

In Rio, there has been an increasing trend of tourists being robbed by Brazilians pretending to be friendly and then slipping GHB into their drinks so they can rob people without them noticing it. The men had distracted me with their conversation about Lula. In contrast, one of them had slipped the drug into my drink.

Fortunately, I was there with friends who helped me get home safely. I also want to thank all our readers who donated to help us pay for replacing my stolen iPhone and the $800 stolen from my debit card by the thieves. 

Finally, a big thanks to the Brazilian SUS. We, as Americans, could learn a lot from their public health system. They even gave me a free Brazilian medical card with my entire medical history so that I don’t have to fill out lengthy forms every time I go to their doctors (for free) when visiting Brazil. 

We have some more filming to do here in Brazil, and I am hoping to do a short segment on Brazil’s SUS. (Be sure also to check out our segment on police violence directed against street vendors in Brazil)

Donate to help us cover Brazil’s wonderful public health system. 

Love & Solidarity, 


About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]