Shift to synthetic drugs in Latin America

by Team Inc.

2022-08-06-Shift towards synthetic drugs in Latin America

In addition to its beautiful nature, South America is also known for cocaine and marijuana. Drug cartels, however, are now making more money from synthetic drugs such as fentanyl and crystal meth.

The smuggling and sale of these synthetic drugs are a public health concern. In Buenos Aires, a number of people were hospitalized in early February. It turned out to be counterfeit cocaine. In the end 24 people died.

contaminated drugs

The contaminated cocaine was found to have been adulterated with another heavy drug called carfentanil. The Argentine atuorities felt compelled to launch a media appeal to warn people. Carfentanil, a derivative of the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl, is most commonly used to sedate large wild animals such as elephants. Just two milligrams — a few grains — is enough to kill a human.

Fentanyl, on the other hand, is “only” 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. And in recent years, this synthetic drug has become a hugely lucrative export for Mexican drug cartels.

Cheap production, big profits

One of the reasons for this is that it costs much less to manufacture than traditional drugs. Mexican media reports suggest that the infamous Sinaloa drug cartel now appears to be making more profit from fentanyl than from cocaine or other drugs.

In early July, Mexican soldiers seized a record 543 kilograms of fentanyl in the city of Culiacan. “This is the largest seizure of this deadly drug in Mexico's history,” the State Secretary for Public Security, Ricardo Mejía, proudly announced after the operation.

Mejía had given a press conference in May explaining why fentanyl was so lucrative for Mexican drug cartels. It takes just two hours to produce one kilogram, he explained, and in Mexico, one kilogram of fentanyl would fetch an average price of $5.000 (about $4.900). In US cities like Los Angeles, this sells for $200.000.

Opioid crisis and fight against synthetic drugs

Against the backdrop of the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States, with more than 2021 deaths in 107.000 alone, Mexican and US presidents Manuel López Obrador and Joe Biden have also weighed in on the issue. On July 13, at their meeting in Washington, they agreed to step up their efforts and cooperation in the fight against synthetic drugs.

From a transit point for drugs produced in the Andean countries, Mexico has now become a fast-growing consumer market. According to the latest United Nations World Drug Report, published on June 26 each year – International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illegal Trafficking – Mexico saw a 2013% increase in the number of people undergoing treatment for drug use between 2020 and 218. of synthetic drugs.

COVID-19 and drug use

The rise of synthetic drugs in Mexico is striking in a continent characterized by the use of cannabis and cocaine, according to the UNODC. Marijuana is the main drug of treatment in Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and almost all of Central America; while in Canada, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay, cocaine is the main culprit.

Source: dw.com (EN)

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