Explosion of Domestic Heroin Use Sign of Mexico’s Role in Trade

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Heroin consumption has risen dramatically in Mexico, mirroring trends in US demand for a drug that is increasingly locally produced and whose production and movement is often overseen by Mexican cartels. 

Figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Mexican government indicate that more Mexicans, especially young people, are using heroin, reported Animal Politico. Between 2008 and 2011, Mexico’s Secretary of Health documented a 67 percent growth in heroin consumption among Mexican citizens between 12 and 65 years of age. The subgroup with the most profound increase in abuse was those aged 26 to 34, which saw a 107 percent increase over the period.

These figures correspond with those of the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), which noted a 70 percent rise of heroin use in Mexico between 2008 and 2012, reported Animal Politico.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has also noted a similar increase in demand in the US, telling a conference on April 16 that the national heroin problem “kind of sneaked up on us,” reported the Los Angeles Times. The issue of heroin abuse began to receive widespread recognition with the recent overdose death of Hollywood star Philip Seymour Hoffman. Holder said a crackdown on prescription painkillers has led to the sharp increase in the use of heroin, which is largely supplied by Mexico and Colombia.

InSight Crime Analysis

Mexico-produced heroin now dominates the US market — a shift that has seen Mexican drug trafficking organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel take a more direct role in the trade. While this has allowed cartels to claim a bigger share of profits, it appears to be having a calamitous effect on the Mexican population, with the new figures serving as a timely reminder of how large-scale drug trafficking operations can beget local markets.

While Animal Politico reports heroin addiction in Mexico is minimal — less than 1 percent of the population — its exponential rise among young people is particularly concerning.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Heroin

Unlike cocaine and marijuana — which is often shipped in large quantities by smugglers frequently paid in product — heroin is typically moved in much smaller amounts by human “mules.” As a result, the trickle down to local drug resale and usage commonly seen with marijuana and cocaine generally does not apply to heroin. Yet the relative cheapness of the drug, as well as its increasing prevalence as production grows to feed the US market, could be changing these dynamics.  

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