Infographic | Shifting Drug Supply Markets In Mexico
Synthetic drugs are not new to Mexico. The nation has been flagged as a major production hub and transmitter of drugs such as methamphetamine and fentanyl for over a decade. However, journalists, researchers, and government officials are now warning of a shift in the domestic synthetic drug situation. Trends in crime and drug use data, along with the analysis of journalists and researchers, suggest something is changing across Mexico. More youths are seeking treatment for methamphetamine, government forces are capturing more drug labs and kilograms of synthetic drugs, and the number of cases of drug dealing are at all time highs.
The United States has had their fentanyl crisis for two years, where they are impacted by the number of deaths from overdoses. Here, surely we have the same, but we don't have the data."
Guanajuato journalist Miguel Ángel Mejía H
The main government survey on drug use trends in the nation, the Encuesta Nacional de Consumo de Drogas, Alcohol y Tabaco (ENCODAT) shows that the percentage of Mexicans who have used illegal drugs in their lifetime almost doubled, from 5.1% to 9.9% between 2008 and 2016. The results are even more concerning for men, 15.8% of whom answered in the affirmative. Unfortunately, the 2016 ENCODAT is the most recent national survey data available, after its estimated $150,000,000 peso cost ($7 million USD) was deemed too expensive by the López Obrador administration.
Therefore, at this critical moment when criminal groups are shifting their focus to synthetic drugs, and drug use rates are spiking worldwide, there is recent no federal data regarding drug use in Mexico.
Despite the absence of official data, the reality is visible. A 2021 poll of citizen security perceptions found that Mexicans reported that both drug use and drug dealing are more alarming than ever. Fentanyl overdoses are increasing as well. In 2020, 72 were treated for fentanyl overdoses in Mexico, a number that increased 636% to 184 the following year. Centro de Integración Juvenil (CIJ) Youth rehab centers have also noticed a shift. In 2020, methamphetamine supplanted marijuana as the substance for which youths sought the most treatment.
Law enforcement authorities in Mexico have felt the impact of the proliferation of synthetic drugs. Sedena (The Mexican Secretariat of National Defense) seizures of methamphetamine have leaped 121% since the beginning of AMLO’s administration. Similarly, US border agents have noticed increases in seizures at the southern border. Within Mexico, as cultivation of marijuana has dissipated, more clandestine drug labs used to produce synthetic drugs are being captured by the military.
Years ago, synthetic drug use and overdoses were considered unique to the United States. Now, the proliferation of synthetic drug use in Mexico further highlights the importance of close US-Mexico security cooperation to solve shared challenges.
About the Authors
The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute. Read more