HomeNewsAnalysisUN: Cocaine Use Up in Latin America, Pill-Popping Up in US
ANALYSIS

UN: Cocaine Use Up in Latin America, Pill-Popping Up in US

DRUG POLICY / 3 MAR 2011 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

Drug use in several Latin American countries, including Mexico, is rising significantly, said a new report by the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). The report is short on specific data per country, but does confirm a trend observed by analysts in recent years: cocaine use is down in the United States but up in Europe, while "crack" cocaine appears to be more avaliable in transit countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela.

The report does not break down how much drug consumption has reportedly increased or decreased by country, but it does provide a useful summary of some general trends.

The first is the declining avaliability of cocaine in the U.S., as evidenced by the higher prices that low-purity cocaine is fetching on the streets. But while North America (Canda, the U.S. and Mexico) still accounts for 41 percent of the world's cocaine consumption, use is growing in Europe (representing 29 percent of the world's total cocaine consumption) and the Southern Cone (between 10 and 20 percent), the report says.

In Latin America, a particular concern is the reported increase of abuse of cheap cocaine derivatives. In Mexico, "the government reported a sharp increase in the abuse of cocaine, particularly 'crack,' and methamphetamine in 2008," the report states. Notably, 449 drug-related deaths were due to cocaine overdoses in 2009, an increase of 90 percent from 2008, evidence of the drug's increased avaliability in Mexico. 

The report also notes that crack abuse has increased in Brazil and Venezuela, where reportedly 11.9 percent of the population uses cocaine derivatives. Cocaine use is also rising in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, says the report.

Increased drug use in Latin America signals that traffickers are becoming more focused on cultivating the domestic markets in producer or transit countries. As previously noted by InSight, this is partly because the major cartels in Mexico and Colombia have been dismantled, and fragmented, smaller groups are taking over who need the income from local distribution. This would explain in part the rising street-level violence seen in countries everywhere from Mexico to Honduras (where 60 percent of all crimes are said to be drug-related) to Panama (where the murder rate has doubled from 2006 to 2009).

As traffickers focus on distributing more of their product domestically, be it cannabis or cocaine derivatives like Colombia's "bazuco" or Argentina's "paco," more local gangs emerge in the interest of controlling a piece of that market. With more local groups competing against one another, as well as increased addiction rates as drugs become more avaliable, murder rates go up, social ills intensify, and ever-smaller "plazas" become more important for local groups to viciously defend. This in part explains the increased urban violence that InSight has observed across the region, and which the INCB report in part confirms.

Meanwhile, Latin America's rising demand for cocaine and crack is complimented by a similar rise in demand from Europe. Cocaine abusers in Western and Central Europe doubled from 2 million in 1998 to 4.1 million in 2008, and the continent now accounts for a quarter of global cocaine consumption, according to the report.

This confirms again the increased importance of the European market for traffickers like Daniel Barrera and the Zetas, who are looking to exploit new international routes as the security crackdown continues in Mexico. 

Tellingly, while the INCD reports on declining cocaine use in the U.S., the number of deaths from drug overdose is increasing in that country. According to the INCD, 38,371 drug-related deaths registered in 2007, double the number registered in 1999. "In a number of states, the number of drug-related deaths has surpassed the number of deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents," the report states.

This is partly explained by the increased abuse of prescription drugs in the U.S, which has now become "the fastest-growing drug problem in the country," the INCB report notes. Twelve and a half million people reported abusing pain relievers like Vicodin or Oxycodone in 2009, compared with 11.9 million in 2008.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

HUMAN RIGHTS / 3 JUN 2016

A new report sheds light on how vulnerable populations subjected to slave-like conditions line the pocketbooks of organized crime networks…

KIDNAPPING / 8 AUG 2012

Mexican authorities have released a new report on kidnapping, detailing the growing dependence by drug trafficking gangs…

BELTRAN LEYVA ORG / 5 JUL 2011

On the eve of a vital gubernatorial election in Mexico State, five dismembered bodies were left in plastic bags in…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…