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Medical News & Perspectives |

Mexican Drug Violence Intertwined With US Demand for Illegal Drugs

Thomas B. Cole, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2009;302(5):482-483. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1108.
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Virtually every week brings reports of the latest episodes of drug-related violence in Mexico that has claimed the lives of thousands over the past few years. To rein in these violent eruptions, the Mexican government has deployed its military and police to fight the major drug cartels that control the lucrative distribution networks that bring illegal drugs into the United States.

But some experts say that the trafficking of illegal drugs, like all businesses, is one of both supply and demand and that the demand side—those who abuse drugs—also should be targeted. These experts propose that a concerted effort to quash demand by making treatment for substance abuse available to those who need it would make the drug trafficking enterprise significantly less profitable.

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Mexico's escalating drug war fills morgues in border cities with bodies awaiting autopsies. Here, bodies crowd a walk-in refrigerator in the border city of Ciudad Juarez. According to Mexican authorities, in 2008, drug violence claimed 6290 lives in Mexico, double the number from the previous year, and more than 1000 drug-related deaths were reported in the first 8 weeks of 2009 alone.

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The US government estimates that dramatic increases in the production and purity of heroin in Mexico have fueled distribution of the drug in the United States. In less than a decade, heroin production in Mexico more than doubled, from 8.8 metric tons in 1999 to 18 metric tons in 2007.

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