Drug Abuse in the Global Village
Drug Abuse in the Americas

Drug Abusers Characteristics in Central America

The 1993 emergency room study indicates that males (5 per cent) abuse cocaine more than females (2 per cent). For tranquilizers, no significant difference in abuse was found between males and females (CICAD 1993).

            According to registry data, most abusers in 1992 are 20-34 years of age (65 per cent). A reported 18 per cent are 15-19 of age, 13 per cent are 35 and over and 4 per cent are 15 years of age or less (U.N. 1992).

            Most cocaine abusers are reported between 18-35 years old and cannabis abusers are between 15-35 years of age. Inhalant abusers are the youngest, being 6-14 years of age, most are orphans or abandoned (U.N. 1988; PAHO 1990).


Most cannabis abusers are reported between 15-29 years of age (76 per cent) and of lower socioeconomic levels. The most frequent reason for abuse is to obtain tranquility (45 per cent) or to forget about problems (15 per cent) (FUNDASALVA 1991).

            Cocaine abusers are reported distributed between all socioeconomic levels, although more abusers are from the higher levels. The reason for abuse is mainly curiosity (30 per cent), and to forget about problems (20 per cent) (FUNDASALVA 1991).

            Abusers of tranquilizers are older than abusers of other drugs, with abuse reported increasing with age. Among those aged 30-50 years of age, over 40-50 per cent reported ever abusing it, while less than 20 per cent of the abusers are between the ages of 15-19. Abusers are reported to come from all socioeconomic levels. Among daily abusers teachers and the unemployed are overrepresented (FUNDASALVA 1991).

            Most stimulants abusers are aged between 25-44 years, and come from lower socioeconomic levels. The main reasons for abuse include improving one's mood, studying and work. About 6 per cent of men reported abusing stimulants for sports (FUNDASALVA 1991).

            Stimulants, cocaine, heroin, morphine and LSD are highly abused among the students population. About 12 per cent have tried cannabis and 1.6 per cent are current abusers; 2 per cent tried cocaine and 0.3 became abusers. About 20.3 per cent tried stimulants and 3.5 per cent became abusers. About 5.3 per cent of the students are tranquilizer abusers (FUNDASALVA 1992).


According to a study on a small sample of minors between 11-18 years of age, most drug abusers are males 15-18 year of age. Most obtain the drug in the street or in drug stores (U.N. 1991).

            According to results of emergency room and detention center studies, most subjects reported starting abuse of drugs at the age of 17 years or younger. Lower age was reported for analgesics, at about 11 years of age, and inhalants at about 14 years of age (CICAD 1993).


Abusers are mostly young. According to the study in emergency rooms and detention centers, the median age for first time abuse is below 18 for most drugs and as low as 14 for analgesics in emergency rooms. Similar findings are reported in detention centers. The median age of first abuse is higher for tranquilizers (25) and stimulants (23) (CICAD 1993).


Drug abuse is most prevalent among young males, 12 to 25 years of age, with the exception of amphetamines and tranquilizers, where about half of the abusers are female (Mexico 1992).

             A 1991-1992 report on drug abuse indicates that cannabis abuse is common among the middle class (34 per cent) and inhalants among the lower class (39 per cent). The upper class tends to abuse drugs such as cocaine (U.N. 1991).

      Studies with street children under the age of 18 have shown that the prevalence of drug abuse is much higher for them than for those children with fixed residences. A reported 27 per cent tried inhalants at least once and 22 per cent abuse it regularly, while 10 per cent abused cannabis at least once and 1.5 per cent abuse it regularly (U.N. 1991). 



Most cocaine and cannabis abusers are young, below 24 years of age, according to a study in emergency rooms and detention centers in Panama (CICAD 1993).