Mexico Drug Addiction

Small street in Mexico

For many years, Mexico has been a well-known producer of drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin, with the United States as its primary market. In the 1990s, the pattern of trafficking shifted as Columbian cocaine manufacturers tired of losing product and personnel in drug enforcement seizures and handed off cocaine trafficking into the U.S. to the Mexican drug trafficking organizations.

Using the channels of smuggling and distribution that already existed, the Mexican drug trafficking organizations became stronger, poly-drug trafficking organizations. Cocaine that used to be shuttled to the U.S. via boats in the Caribbean was now sneaked through ports of entry in Southern California or Texas in combination with other drugs or was airlifted across the border.

As the new millennium rolled around, the patterns of drug trafficking continued to change. The war on drugs on the U.S. side escalated and several of the top drug cartel leaders were arrested or killed. These openings at the top led to turf wars that have killed more than 7,000 people - most of them federal or local police or drug traffickers, but too many being innocent bystanders. Particularly in the Tijuana area and Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, the violence and body count was high.

Border security increased after September 11, 2001. Increased investment in surveillance and monitoring meant that it was harder to get illicit drugs into the United States. Some U.S. regions would report shortages in the cocaine supply in particular. This meant that some traffickers turned to their own population to peddle their wares. As a result, addiction within Mexico began to rise.

Mexico’s Addiction Survey Reports Rapid Growth in Drug Use

The national Addiction Survey is completed every five or six years, the latest one being in 2008 and the prior survey being published in 2002. Fifty thousand homes in Mexico are surveyed, but authorities commented that they were reluctant to survey some of the northern states where drug manufacture and trafficking is the most prevalent, due to safety concerns for the surveyors.

The 2008 Addiction Survey reported that the number of people who had used drugs increased by a million between 2002 and 2008 - from 3.5 million to 4.5 million. Inhalable cocaine use almost doubled. For those between the ages of 12 and 25, 43 percent are exposed to drug use, half of those experiment with drugs and 13 percent use drugs frequently. The number of those addicted to illegal drugs increased 51 percent to nearly half a million.

In addition to those who are addicted, the Addiction Survey reported that another four million people needed what they termed a “brief intervention” to get them off drugs and that 80 percent of the population needs prevention help. The survey also reported that the use of crack cocaine, methamphetamine and powder cocaine that had previously only been seen in Tijuana and Baja California had now spread to more than 100 cities.

Marketing Tactics Increase the Illicit Drug Customer Base

To distribute the drugs that were beginning to accumulate as a result of border pressure and scrutiny, drug dealers - as many as 35,000 strong by some reports - began to offer free doses to students and partygoers, particularly young women. Some drug dealers began to be paid for their services in product rather than money. And the addiction figures began to grow.

Cocaine in its powder form or converted into crack cocaine is most often the drug Mexicans are addicted to. Marijuana use is widespread. In the northern border state of Sonora, crystal methamphetamine use quadrupled between 2002 and 2008.

Mexico’s Attorney General stated, “It is clear to everyone that our nation has stopped being a transit country for drugs going to the United States and become an important market as well. We are experiencing a phenomenon of greater drug supplies in the streets, at relatively accessible prices.”

The Nation Grapples with the Solutions

On August 20, 2009, the Mexican government signed new drug laws into effect. No longer would the possession of small “personal use” amounts of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, LSD or methamphetamine be criminal offenses. Those caught with these drugs would be encouraged to seek treatment, or after the third offense, be required to enter treatment. The amount of marijuana allowed under this law is about the equivalent of four “joints” or marijuana cigarettes. The amount of cocaine permitted is enough to create four lines or half a gram.

Authorities stated that this action would allow them to concentrate on drug dealers rather than charging, convicting and imprisoning users. The Mexican prison system is built to house 172,000 inmates but holds an additional 50,000 - the same number of inmates as the number arrested in the last few years under President Felipe Calderon’s campaign against drug traffickers in the last few years.

This new law became effective came just a few days after a prison riot occurred in northern Mexico at a prison housing federal inmates convicted of drug and organized crime charges. The riot left 19 inmates dead. Between August and December 2008, prison riots left 80 dead, 162 injured and allowed 27 to escape.

At another prison in Zacatecas, 53 drug cartel members walked out of prison without interference from prison guards in May 2009 and were whisked away in official-appearing police cars. Other cartel members in prison enjoy lavish privileges or simply buy their way out of prison.

Mexico is fast-tracking more prison facilities and state-run treatment centers in an attempt to alleviate the growing problems of addiction, a failed prison system, police and governmental corruption and drug cartels that operate openly and freely in many sectors.

Narconon Centers Open to Bring Help and Hope to Those Addicted

The unique Narconon program takes those who are addicted through several phases or steps that start by thoroughly detoxifying the body of residual toxins, reducing or eliminating cravings. The program goes on to help a person restore his or her own personal integrity, so often destroyed by drug use, and then revitalizes the person’s own sense of morals and ability to make drug-free decisions.

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