Why prescription drug abuse in the US impacts Latin America
A new Senate report says prescription drug abuse is one of the biggest drug policy threats facing the US, casting doubt on the conventional wisdom of Latin American cartels posing the greatest risk.
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A new Senate report highlights how prescription drug abuse is now one of the biggest health and security problems facing the US, casting doubt on the conventional wisdom that Latin American cartels still present the biggest risk to the US in terms of drug policy
The latest briefing by the US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control calls attention to a shift in drug consumption trends observed for several years now. While use of [...] cocaine and marijuana appears stable, if not decreasing, prescription drugs are now the second most common form of drug abuse in the US. The White House previously called it the “the Nation’s fastest-growing drug problem.” And as the Senate briefing points out, prescription drugs are now responsible for the majority of overdose deaths in the US, outnumbering deaths involving heroin and cocaine combined. Meanwhile the number of people seeking treatment for addiction to legal opiates increased 400 percent between 2004 and 2008, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Rising prescription drug abuse has also led to increased violent robberies of pharmacies, up 82 percent between 2006 and 2011, the Senate briefing notes. The implication is that not only is prescription drug abuse leading to serious health problems across the US, but it is becoming a security issue as well. From Florida to New England, local law enforcement is reporting a rise in violent crime and theft linked to prescription drugs.
Such findings are further indication that the major drug policy challenges facing the US increasingly have less to do with the illegal drugs traditionally supplied by Latin American criminal organizations. Latin America-based cartels are hardly the main suppliers when it comes the prescription drug epidemic: according to a 2009 government survey on drug use in the US, 70 percent of prescription drug abusers in the US were supplied their pills by a friend or a relative. The epidemic raises the tricky question of just how many resources the US should continue putting into international drug enforcement in Latin America, when it’s clear that the more pressing challenges facing the country lie within its own borders and its domestic laws regarding pharmaceutical drugs.