Drugs in the Global Village

Extent of Drug Abuse: According to a 1993 National Survey (S=20,243) conducted in urban areas among a 12 to 65 years of age population, the population estimate of benzodiazepines annual use is 1'218,449, followed by other tranquillizers (262,298), cannabis (247,300), amphetamines (241,518), cocaine (95,384),  volatile solvents (70,987), hallucinogens (16,739) and opium and heroin (12,815) (Direccion General de Epidemiologia, 1993, in U.N. 1994).

            These data are partially confirmed by an extrapolation based on a registry of drug abusers of the Mexican Psychiatric Institute covering the population of  the Federal District and metropolitan area (an estimated 18'051,539 inhabitants). According to this extrapolation, the population estimate of cannabis annual use is 247,000, followed by volatile solvents (177,000) , benzodiazepines (64,000),  cocaine (58,000),  tranquillizers other than benzodiazepines (25,000), multiple drugs (21,000), hallucinogens  (15,000), opium/heroin (13,000)  and amphetamines* (12,000) (Instituto Mexicano de Psiquiatria, November 1993, in U.N. 1994).

            The results of a National Addiction Survey conducted in 1988 were as reported in table 1.

Table 1. Ever Consumed Drugs, age 12 to 65, Mexico 1988, (S=15,000),
                                    Total           Preval-                  Sex                              Age of
                                                       ence              M                 F                      Incep-
                                                        %                 %                 %                     tion
Cannabis                      388,000**    1.08              98.7                       1.3                   12-17
Tranquilizers                 132,500        0.37              54.5                       45.5                 18-25
Volatile solvents                113,000       0.31                   99.5               0.5                  12-17
Amphetamines              129,000        0.36              45.5                       54.4                 18-25
Synthetic narcotic
analgesics                       21,000        0.06              68.71**     35.3                 18-25
Cocaine                              44,000       0.12                 100                    0                    12-17
Heroin                            18,000        0.05            100                0                    12-17
Any Drug                         692,500       1.92                   79.6               20.4    

** revised figures by the Mexican Government.
Source: Direcciףn General de Epidemiologםa, SSA. Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatria, 1990**, cited in Government of Mexico 1992a, Centros de Integracciףn Juvenil 1992.

Abuser Characteristics: Drug abuse is more prevalent among young males, 12 to 25 years of age, with the exception of amphetamines and tranquilizers, where about half of the abusers are females (Government of Mexico 1992a).

            Drug abusers registry data show that consumption of licit and illicit drugs among females is significant. However, consumption of drugs is more prevalent among males. According to an estimate based on registry data, there are 56,000 male cannabis abusers versus 3,000 females, 29,000 male  volatiles abusers versus 5,000 females, 5,000 male cocaine abusers versus 1,000 females, 3,000 male benzodiazepines abusers versus 1,000 females, 4,000 male  other tranquillizers abusers versus 1,000 females, 3,000 male opiates abusers versus 1,000 females, 2,000 male  amphetamine abusers versus 1,000 females, and the 1,000 hallucinogens abusers are all males  (Instituto Mexicano de Psiquiatria, 1993 in U.N. 1994).

Drug abuse is most prevalent among those 15 to 19 years of age according to drug registry data (see table 2 for more details) (Mexicano de Psiquiatria, November 1993, in U.N. 1994).

Table 2. Registered drug abusers by age and type of drug, in percentages, Mexico 1993 (N=377).

                                    Less than 15                     Between 15 and                    Between 20 and
                                    years old                      19 years old                             34 years old
Heroin                          14.3                             57.1                             28.6
Other opiates                                                    50.0                             50.0
Cocaine                            17.5                         41.1                             46.4
Cannabis                      21.4                             52.3                             26.4    
Hallucinogens               10.5                             57.9                             31.6
Amphetamines              8.3                               58.3                             33.3
Benzodiazepines               24.6                         41.0                             34.4
Other tranquillizers            8.0                           64.0                             28.0
Multiple drugs               14.3                             52.4                             33.3
Volatile solvents                35.9                         47.0                             17.2
Source: Sistema de Reporte de Informacion en Drogas, Instituto Mexicano de Psiquiatria, November 1993.

According to a 1993 National Survey conducted among 10,879  students aged between 12 and 18, annual abuse of volatile substances is the highest (2.34 per cent) followed by cannabis (1.30 per cent).  Cannabis is the most prevalent drug of abuse monthly (1.17 per cent). Drug abuse is more prevalent among those 15 to 19 years of age and among males (see table 3 for more details) (Secretaria de Educacion Publica, 1993 in U.N. 1994).

Table 3. Drug abuse among students by type of drug, frequency of use, age and gender, Mexico 1993, (S=10879).
                                    Cocaine            Cannabis                      Hallucinogens   Volatile solvents                                                                                                                                                    
Annual abuse                0.63              1.30                     0.28                 2.34
Monthly abuse              0.59              1.17                     0.23                 1.05

Less than 15                 0.2                0.3                       0.1                   1.18
Between 15 and 19          1.03          2.1                       0.3                   2.3

Males                           0.92              2.05                     0.36                 1.68
Females                            0.26          0.33                     0.11                 0.44    
Source: Secretaria de Educacion Publica and Instituto Mexican de Psiquiatria, Encuesta sobre el Uso de Drogas entre la Comunidad Escolar, 1993.

            Cannabis abuse is common among the middle class (34 per cent), volatile substances among the lower class (39 per cent) and cocaine among the upper class (U.N. 1991).

            For children and youth under 18 years of age, drug abuse is more prevalent among those who live in the street  compared to those with a fixed residence. Among children and youth living in the street, 27 per cent tried volatile substances at least once and 22 per cent abuse it regularly, while 10 per cent abused cannabis at least once in their lifetime and 1.5 per cent abuse it regularly (U.N. 1991).

Regional Variations: An increase in drug abuse was reported in the capital city, in cities bordering the United States and in tourist centers (U.N. 1991). According to a 1991 National Survey among 61,779 students and teachers of elementary, middle and middle-high schools, Baja California has the highest prevalence of lifetime abuse of all drugs except volatile substances (see table 3) (Government of Mexico 1993).

Table 3. Lifetime abuse of drugs by type of drug and by federal entity, in percentages, Mexico 1991 (S=61,779).
                                    Inhalants      Amphetamines       Marihuana        Cocaine                        Crack               Heroine
Aguascalientes                                                                                                  0.46
Baja California              5.06          4.21                        2.99                 1.91                 0.61                 0.54
Campeche                                                            2.74            
Federal District             5.00          3.37                        2.80                                                                                        
Guanajuato                                    2.76
Guerrero                                                                                                                      0.45
Hidalgo                            5.73                                                 1.16                                        
Jalisco                          4.41                                 2.87             1.36                 0.50                
Michoacan                                    3.06
Morelos                                                                       1.95                                         0.38
Quintana Roo                                3.36
Queretaro                     5.82
Sinaloa                                                                                     1.41
Sonora                                                                                     1.57                                         0.32
Tabasco                                                                                                                                               0.38
Tamaulipas                                                                                                                               0.30
Source: Secretaria de Educacion Publica and Instituto Mexicano de Psiquiatria, Encuesta Nacional sobre el Uso de Drogas entre la Comunidad Escolar, 1991.

Trends” An increase in drug abuse was reported from 1986 to 1994 (U.N. 1986-1994). Cocaine abuse in the Federal District increased  from about 2 per cent in 1985 to 9 per cent in 1991 (U.N. 1991). A further increase in cocaine and heroin abuse was registered in 1992 and 1993 (U.N. 1993-1994). The increase has  been attributed to a greater availability of heroin and cocaine. In particular, the price of the latter has considerably decreased in 1993. The greater availability of cocaine and its derivatives is also due to the appearance of lower quality, cheaper products, such as crack, on the market (U.N. 1994).

A change of the high risk age group has also been registered. According to a juvenile psychology services sources, the high risk age was 14 to 19 in 1990, 10 to 14 in 1992 and 5 to 10 in 1995 (Reforma, 1995).

Mode of Intake: Heroin is injected and smoked. Cocaine is usually sniffed, or smoked in the form of crack. However, cocaine injection is also reported. Cannabis is smoked. Hallucinogens are smoked and ingested. Amphetamines are ingested as well as benzodiazepines and other tranquillizers. Volatile solvents are inhalated (U.N. 1992-1994).


According to the Mexican government, an analysis of the costs and consequences of drug abuse in Mexico must focus in particular on cocaine consumption, because the costs and social consequences for the abusers of such drug are very high (U.N. 1994).

In 1994, Mexico had 5059 cases of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and  630 of Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection. Approximately 2 per cent of new HIV infection cases were directly  due to injected intravenous drug abuse (U.N. 1994).

 In 1990-1991, 8 to 10 per cent of suicides were drug related. Similarly, some road accidents are attributed to drug abuse.

National Strategy: The national drug strategy consists of drug supply and demad reduction programmes, coordinated at the inter-ministerial level. The demand reduction strategy includes three programmes relating to dependence on drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Programme delivery is placed in the context of health promotion campaigns, with special emphasis on prevention of drug abuse among youth, community mobilization and improvement of health services (Government of Mexico 1994a).

            Mexico’s drug strategy has also focused on regional cooperation and on domestic legislation reforms. Mexico has promoted regional cooperation against drug trafficking by signing bilateral agreements with Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Peru, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, United States of America and Venezuela. At the domestic level, a reform carried out in 1990 provides for sentences of 3 to 9 years of imprisonment for the crime of money laundering. Since 1993, a coordination agreement ensuring a constant exchange of information between the Procuradoria General de la Republica and the financial system has entered into force. In 1994, the legislation against drug trafficking was stiffened, by conferring to the Publico Ministerio the power to arrest people in case of serious crime, risk that the person might escape and impossibility to reach the judicial authority to obtain the order of incarceration. On the other hand, a reform concerning  crimes against health and based on the premise that drug abusers are sick people who need help and treatment was carried out. The reform legitimizes the possession of drugs for personal use and reduces the sentence for those farmers who, for socio-economic reasons, have cultivated drugs (Government of Mexico, 1994b).

Structure of National Drug Control Organs
The Attorney General coordinates inter-ministerial drug control activities. Coordination of national drug control policy is the responsibility of the Drug Control Planning Centre (CENDRO) within the National Institute for the Campaign Against Drugs. The "Consejo Nacional Contra Las Adicciones" (CONADIC), under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and governed by the General Health Law, coordinates drug demand reduction activities and is responsible for their evaluation. Many of the demand reduction activities are implemented by agencies associated with the State Councils Against Addiction Care Programs (ADEFAR) (CMO 1990).

Treaty Adherence: Mexico is party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 protocol, to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971, and to the Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.
Measures Taken with Respect to Drug Control
Laws and regulations: Money-laundering laws were reported enacted in 1989.
Licensing system for manufacture, trade and distribution: There is a government-controlled system of licensing. Diazepam, a psychotropic substance, was reported being manufactured during 1993. No licensed manufacturing of narcotic drugs was reported.
Control system:
(I) Prescription requirement: Prescription is a requirement for supply and dispensation of preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
(ii) Warnings on packages: The law requires warnings on packages or accompanying leaflet information to safeguard the users of preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
(iii) Control of non-treaty substances, if any: None reported.
Social Measures
Penal sanctions related to social measures: In 1993, courts applied measures of education, treatment, rehabilitation and social integration neither as an alternative nor in addition to conviction or punishment.
Other social measures: The government has implemented prevention measures to reduce drug dependence, using the ADEFAR programme, a policy instrument developed by the Attorney General's Office. In this programme, drug dependent abusers are monitored in juvenile integration centers, where rehabilitation measures are being applied.  For 1993, the following activities were reported having been implemented by the Secretary of Health: an educational programme and a drug related social communication policy. It was also reported that increased attention was paid to the juvenile integration centres described above.

Primary Prevention: Prevention as well as treatment and rehabilitation actions are conducted by various institutions within the National Programme for Drug Control framework. Drug prevention activities are coordinated at the national level by the National Council,  at the regional level by State Councils, and at the local level by Municipal Committees (U.N. 1994).

            Mass media programmes included 287,338 ads on radio, television and newspapers in 1993 (Government of Mexico 1993). During 1994, the mass media prevention campaign was further developed with the publication and distribution of the  magazine “Educacion para la Vida” (“Education for Life”) ( Government of Mexico 1994b). During 1991, State Councils Against Addiction Care Programs (ADEFAR) organized 32,538 radio messages, 9,725 television spots and 3,309 messages painted on street walls, posters, fliers and newsletters (Government of Mexico, 1992b).

            Preventive education programmes involving both the school and the family  were implemented through the Educational Programme for the Prevention of Addiction “Education for Life”,  the Preventive Education Programme against Drug Addiction (PEPCA) and other institutions. In 1993, training for parents and teachers consisted of 26,683 information talks and 2,537 training meetings (reaching over one million people) and also resulted in the publication of teacher guides and didactic material and the establishment of a Documentation and Information Center (Government of Mexico, 1994b).
In 1991, agencies associated with ADEFAR organized 55,145 information sessions and 4,589 training courses for health professionals, teachers and volunteers (Government of Mexico, 1992b).

            Prevention activities at the community level are carried out by civic groups, professional organizations,  trade unions, volunteers’ organizations, religious groups, political parties, parents and teachers’ associations, groups of self-help for drug abusers, sport clubs, penitentiaries and NGOs (U.N. 1994).  In 1993, almost 8 thousand sports and cultural events addressed to young adults at high risk were organized by the National Sports Commission (Government of Mexico 1993). In 1991 ADEFAR organized 39,569 sports, recreational and cultural events (Government of Mexico, 1992b).

            Special programmes for drug prevention in the workplace were designed and implemented (through the Ministry of Health) in the automobile, textile, chemical and aviation industries. In particular a joint UNDCP-ILO project for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse among workers and their families has been implemented. (U.N. 1994). A special prevention programme was also developed by the Ministry of National Defense in order to raise awareness about the consequences of drug abuse among the military and by the Ministry of Communications and Transportation to detect drug abuse by public transportation drivers (Government of Mexico, 1994b).

            A special programme for AIDS prevention has been initiated. In 1993 the first National Reunion for the Prevention of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome took place (Government of Mexico, 1994b).

            Alternative development programs as a prevention measure were carried out in Chiapas, Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Sinaloa and Veracruz (Government of Mexico, 1994b).

Treatment and Rehabilitation: Since 1986, treatment and rehabilitation activities in Mexico are coordinated by the General Council against Addiction, which has created a National System for Treatment and Rehabilitation (SINTRA). This system has produced an inventory of all the treatment and rehabilitation centers operating in the country (U.N. 1994).

            In 1993, the  toxicology programme “Youth for Health”  carried out treatment and rehabilitation activities involving 2,346 cases (U.N. 1993). In 1994, 7,865 individuals received treatment  for the first time (7,069 in therapeutic communities and consulting rooms and 796 in specialized detoxification facilities) (U.N. 1994).

            In 1991, 26,094 individuals with drug dependence disorders had begun treatment under the auspices of the Health Sector and "Youth Centers" (Government of Mexico 1992b). In the same year , 5.8 per cent of the patients hospitalized for psychiatric reasons were pharmaco-dependent and 0.8 per cent presented symptoms of toxic psychosis. Most cases of pharmaco-dependents (53 per cent) were between the ages of 16-20, and 20 per cent were between the ages of 21-30. Tranquilizers were reported the most frequently abused drugs among the hospitalized patients (U.N. 1991).

            As for rehabilitation activities, from 1989 through 1994, more than 15 thousand releases took place (Government of Mexico 1994).

            Registration of drug abusers is voluntary. In 1993, there were 377  registered abusers (U.N. 1994) and 389 in 1991 (U.N. 1992). In 1993 the registry system was improved. It uses a single reference and counter reference number for each case attended and an instrument elaborated by the World Health Organization for evaluation purposes (Government of Mexico, 1993).

            Social reintegration of persons who have undergone programmes of treatment and rehabilitation is carried out by self-help and non-governmental organizations in most cases (U.N. 1994).

Arrests, Convictions and Types of Offenses: The number of people arrested for traffic or possession of illicit drugs has increased from 10,993 in 1991, to 27,389 in 1992 (CICAD 1993). In the first half of 1990, 10,045 people were detained for the possession of drugs, 114 of which were foreigners, while 6,770 people were charged of whom 114 were foreigners. A reported total of 4,062 were brought to court. From 1988 to 1990, 23,054 people were arrested and 13,528 were charged and brought to court. Between 1982 and 1988, 69,629 people were arrested for the possession or abuse of drugs (mainly cannabis and occasionally cocaine and opiates) (Office of the Attorney General of Mexico, 1991).
According to a longitudinal study in Mexico City, 8.74 per cent (or 4,729) of minors arrested were for drug related offenses. Drug related arrests are the third most prevalent cause for the arrests of minors (U.N. 1991).
Seizures: In 1991, 50 tonnes of cocaine were seized, compared to 650 kg in 1983. Cocaine seizures decreased in 1992 to 38.8 tonnes. From 1988 to 1991, 140 tonnes of cocaine, 1,568 tonnes of cannabis, 532 kg of heroin and 872 kg of opium gum were seized. In 1991 alone, a total of 254.9 tonnes of cannabis (herb) were seized, increasing to 404.5 tonnes in 1992. Another 5 tonnes of cannabis seeds were also seized in 1992. The total amount of opiates seized in 1991 amounted to 241.81 kilograms, representing 56.9 per cent of 1990 and 32.7 per cent of 1989 opiates seizures. Heroin seizures amounted to 146.376 kg in 1991 and dropped to 96.778 kg in 1992. Opium (poppy seeds) seizures amounted to 1.1 tonnes in 1992, more than double the quantity seized the previous year. In 1992, 1 kg of morphine, 167.255 kg of opium (raw and prepared), and 68,740 units of depressants, stimulants and other hallucinogens were seized (Government of Mexico 1992a; Government of Mexico 1992b; Other official sources 1990, 1991, 1992; U.N. 1992).
Supply Source of Drugs: A government report indicated that cannabis, opium gum and crude heroin are produced in Mexico (Government of Mexico 1992a). The Office of the Attorney General is responsible for crop eradication, and the Ministry of Defence is responsible for the manual destruction of illicit crop fields. This activity occurs within the framework of a Comprehensive Interdiction System (SIIN), which was established in 1991. This system aims to abolish drug trafficking at the cultivation and production level. Law enforcement measures resulted in high levels of crop destruction, seizure of psychotropic substances and narcotic drugs and arrests of drug traffickers (Government of Mexico 1992b; CMO 1990; Government of Mexico 1992a).

References and Notes

ADEFAR 1990. ADEFAR "Programme of Attention to the Pharmaco-dependency". Procuraduria General de la Republica. Mexico. December 1990.

U.N. 1986-1994. Replies to UNDCP "Annual Reports Questionnaire" for the years 1986-1994. 

CICAD 1993 “First Report of the Inter-American Data Bank to the CICAD”.

Centros de Integraciףn Juvenil 1992  Epidemiologםa del Abuso de drogas en la Republica Mexicana.
Ciudade de Mexico: C.I.J.

CMO 1990. Replies to UNDCP questionnaire concerning the seven targets of the "Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future Activities in Drug Abuse Control" (CMO) (1990).

Government of Mexico 1994a, "Perfil Nacional Sobre el Uso Indebido de Drogas-Mexico", paper presented at the Foro de Expertos Sobre la Reducciףn del Uso Indebido de Drogas. Sדo Paulo, Brazil, 10-13 May 1994. 

Government of Mexico 1994b. Programa Nacional para el Control de Drogas 1989-1994. Avances y Resultados. Procuraduria General de la Republica, Instituto para el Combate a las Drogas, September 1994.

Government of Mexico 1993. Mexico’s Effort in Drug Control, 1993. National Program in Drug Control 1989-1994, Office of the Attorney General, Government of Mexico.

Government of Mexico 1992a. Drug Control in Mexico: A Comprehensive Programme 1989-1994. Summary. Office of the Attorney General. Government of Mexico. 1992.

Government of Mexico 1992b. Mexican Efforts in Drug Control 1991. The Drug Control Program 1989-1994. Office of the Attorney General. Government of Mexico.

Reforma, 1995. Adriana D. Valasis, Aumenta drogadiccion en niסos in Reforma, 21 January 1995.

Office of the Attorney General of Mexico, 1991. "Integral Programme 1990 Resume of Activities Realized from January to December 1990".

Other official sources 1990, 1991, 1992. Obtained from one or more seizure reports provided by the Government or from other official sources for the years 1990, 1991 and 1992.

*These figures are, according to the source, conservative, because drug abusers tend to reduce the dimension of their drug abuse when reporting it and also because the system does not collect data on private health institutions.

**Corrections by the competent authorities of the Mexican Government to Mexico's Drug Abuse and Treaty Implementation Profile.

*** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on the Annual Reports Questionnaire for the years 1990 and 1993.