Tijuana and Mexicali: Mexico’s Growing Hotspots for Fentanyl Consumption

Puerto Vallarta (PVDN) – Víctor Clark, Director of the Binational Center for Human Rights and Professor of Latin American Studies at the University of San Diego, California, asserts that Tijuana and Mexicali have become the primary consumption hotspots for fentanyl in Mexico and serve as ideal test sites for cartels to determine the highest tolerable dosage for users, thereby minimizing expenses and capitalizing on the severe drug addiction problem prevalent at the border.

Cartels have introduced this new product locally to stimulate demand, Clark observes. They have done so by distributing the drug in combination with other substances such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and crystal, gradually inducing fentanyl tolerance.

Clark notes that a domestic market for direct fentanyl use has been established. A recent report by the U.S. Department of State emphasized that criminal groups are conducting human trials to ascertain the strength of the drug they intend to sell. The U.S. authorities highlighted that these cartels aim to manufacture the most potent fentanyl and distribute it at the lowest cost in the U.S. The DEA warns that a three-gram dose of this synthetic drug could be lethal for an average individual.

Over a short span, fentanyl has transitioned from an unknown entity to a contentious issue straining Mexico-U.S. relations. This potent, economical, and hard-to-detect synthetic drug has evolved into a lucrative business dealing in billions of dollars. Simultaneously, it has sparked a public health crisis causing numerous fatalities annually, particularly in the U.S., according to official figures. As the latest drug crusade unfolds between a “consumer” nation and a “producer” nation, the trend indicates rising fentanyl consumption in Mexico. However, Mexico lacks a public policy to tackle this issue and hasn’t initiated a national addiction survey in years. As a result, researchers like Clark resort to field studies to gain insights into usage patterns.

Based on Clark’s observations, Tijuana had approximately half a million drug addicts in 2018. Five years later, this figure has increased. With no official statistics available, organizations operate in the dark, relying solely on data from rehabilitation centers and overdose fatalities. Clark adds that rehabilitation centers report a surge in numbers with the introduction of the new drug.

Fentanyl entered the market in the past decade as an additive to other opioids, leading to unintentional fentanyl addiction. As Clark explains, many addicts consumed heroin and crystal laced with fentanyl without their knowledge, noting its potent effects. This clandestine approach was a key strategy employed by drug traffickers to stimulate market demand.

The lack of official statistics on fentanyl consumption also obscures the precise number of overdose deaths. The only available local metrics come from NGOs dealing with addictions and hospital records. Clark notes that the Red Cross reports treating around 20 overdose cases monthly.

A recent U.S. indictment implicates Los Chapitos, successors to Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán’s drug empire, in a case involving a woman given three doses of the opioid in Mexico for chemical potency tests, leading to her fatal overdose. Other addicts were reportedly subjected to similar tests.

The escalating fentanyl use is a worsening phenomenon over the past five years, according to Clark. Researcher Clara Fleiz, from the National Institute of Psychiatry, previously warned about the potential crisis if the growing population using fentanyl in Mexico were ignored. She highlighted that fentanyl had reached the border and was already impacting the most vulnerable population, injecting drug users.

Recently, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved an initiative championed by President López Obrador, calling for up to 15 years imprisonment for trafficking fentanyl’s chemical precursors. This measure aims to curb the crisis resulting from the manufacture of synthetic drugs on Mexican soil nationally. However, the other looming public health crisis remains unaddressed.

Clark warns, “The State’s intervention, particularly in Tijuana, has been tardy. If significant resources are not allocated towards prevention, education, and most importantly, rehabilitation, I fear that fentanyl will inundate all regions of the country in the near future.”

According to Clark’s observations, the absence of official statistics means that groups and organizations are operating blindly, only relying on records from rehabilitation centers and fatal overdose incidents. Clark notes that these centers have reported an exponential increase in numbers following the introduction of the new drug.

Fentanyl was introduced into the market in the last decade as an additive to other opioids. As a result, users were unknowingly developing a dependency on fentanyl, as highlighted by Clark. Many users consumed heroin and crystal meth mixed with fentanyl without realizing its presence, commenting only on its increased potency. This covert approach was a strategic move by drug traffickers to create a demand in the market.

This lack of official data regarding fentanyl consumption also obscures the exact number of fatal overdoses. The only indicators available are from NGOs dealing with addiction issues and hospital reports. The Red Cross, according to Clark, treats approximately 20 cases of overdose every month.

Recently, U.S. authorities publicized allegations against Los Chapitos, the heirs to Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán’s drug empire. The legal summary outlined the case of a woman who was administered three doses of the opioid in Mexico to assess the potency of the chemicals. She subsequently succumbed to an overdose. Other addicts were also reportedly subjected to similar tests, with one of them fatally overdosing. The drug consumed was also shipped to the United States.

The escalating use of fentanyl is a phenomenon that has been intensifying over the past five years, Clark points out. Clara Fleiz, a researcher at the National Institute of Psychiatry, had previously raised the alarm in an interview with EL PAÍS about the dangers of neglecting the increasing population using fentanyl in Mexico. She noted that the illicit fentanyl market had reached the border and was already impacting the most vulnerable populations, specifically, injecting drug users.

A week ago, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved an initiative led by President López Obrador to impose a 15-year prison sentence on anyone trafficking in fentanyl precursors. This move is designed to tackle the crisis caused by the manufacture of this synthetic drug within the country. Despite this, the other ongoing public health crisis remains largely ignored. Clark concludes, “The State was late in its response, especially in Tijuana. If significant resources are not deployed for prevention, education, and rehabilitation, I fear that fentanyl will overtake us in all parts of the country in the coming years.”

Trending News on PVDN

Compare Listings

Title Price Status Type Area Purpose Bedrooms Bathrooms