Mexicans catch meth habit in shadow of drugs war

Mon Dec 1, 2008 6:27pm EST
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By Mica Rosenberg

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Drug violence, including decapitations and grenade attacks, has killed some 4,500 people in Mexico this year but thousands of others are falling victim to a quieter crisis: addiction to methamphetamine.

Mexico is now the largest producer of methamphetamine for the U.S. market and traffickers have recently found a growing number of users at home, many of them minors.

Meth, which can be taken in pills, snorted or injected, is cheaper than cocaine or heroin and has a long-lasting high. But the drug is highly addictive and is very difficult to treat.

Meth use in Mexico has quadrupled in six years, according to a survey by the health ministry. The study, to be released in the coming weeks, shows 0.5 percent of the Mexican population has tried meth, more than double the 0.2 percent of the U.S. population who have used it.

One 23-year-old who gave her name as Violeta started using hard drugs like crack-cocaine as a teenager working in a Mexico City strip club. She tried meth for the first time when dozens of pills were passed around on a tray at a party.

She once stopped breathing after a bad hit of the drug, which accelerates the heart rate.

"The last thing I remember is having a great time dancing. Then I woke up in the hospital. Apparently I was convulsing in the bathroom," she said.

As U.S. authorities cracked down in recent years on the sale of the drug's ingredients, busting "mom and pop" labs in blue collar garages and bathrooms, Mexican gangs that already smuggled huge quantities of cocaine and marijuana into the United States moved in to meet the demand for meth.   Continued...