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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


SANCHEZ-HUESCA, Ricardo; ARELLANEZ-HERNANDEZ, Jorge Luis; PEREZ-ISLAS, Verónica  y  RODRIGUEZ-KURI, Solveig E.. Estudio de la relación entre consumo de drogas y migración a la frontera norte de México y Estados Unidos. Salud Ment [online]. 2006, vol.29, n.1, pp.35-43. ISSN 0185-3325.

Since the beginning of the XX Century, migration has played an important role in the relations between Mexico and the United States. The main reasons behind most of these migration movements are to improve life conditions and already established social-familiar networks.

It is estimated that approximately 390,000 Mexican people migrate each year to the United States. In 2002, Mexicans represented the biggest immigrant group, with 9.5 million people. Among the main elements that cause this migrating movement are: the increasing Mexican demographic population in prime working age, the insufficient creation of jobs, low salaries, as well as the high demand that exists for manpower in the United States, specially in the agricultural, industrial and service areas.

There have been important changes in the migrating process, which modify usual behaviors, habits, values, attitudes and points of view by migrants, their families, their home town and their new environment. These changes can facilitate the development of some problems, at a public health level. Some such problems include stress, depression, risky sexual behavior, AIDS contagion, or increase in the abuse of alcohol and drugs.

The Community Epidemiology Work Group and NIDA has reported that South and South East areas of the United States show a high cocaine, heroine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy abuse. Most such areas are located at the Mexican border, and this problem seems to affect both countries the same.


The study involved following transversal, ex post facto comparisons of migrant and no migrant users drugs. The main objectives included: a) To identifiy abuse levels of migrating drug users, and compare these results with those of Mexican resident drug abusers (non migrating); b) To identify abuse levels in migrating people before and after they moved into the United States and/ or Mexican border cities, and their degree of abuse upon returning to Mexico; c) To explore any relationships between migrating and increased drug consumption, such as heroine and methamphetamine.

The participant selection procedure involved intentional, sampling by using pairs. Inclusion criteria included using ilegal drugs, being new patient in the Treatment area of Centros de Integración Juvenil (CIJ), and having migrated to any Mexican border cities and/or the United States in the last five years, and stayed for a period of three months or more.

The CIJ operating units that participated in the study included those in Cancán, Celaya, Chihuahua, Ciudad Juárez, Colima, Guadalajara, Hermosillo, Laguna, La Paz, León, Los Mochis, Monterrey, Puebla, Zacatecas and Zamora. These units were selected because of their high number of patients who are methamphetamine or heroine abusers, as well as for including a considerable rate of migrating people to the United States.

The groups included 92 drug abusers, of which 46 went to the mexican north border or to the United States cities, and 46 non migrants. Data was gathered through the application of a questionnaire.

Main findings.

Some of the results revealed that 97.8% of the participants were male, with an average age of 26 years old (SD=7.5), and 80% had studied elementary school or higher.

1. Characteristics of the migrating process.

Drug abusers, who migrated to the northern Mexican border, mainly went to Baja California and Chihuahua states. The ones who went to the United Stated were living in California, Texas, Arizona and Illinois.

Among the main reasons for migrating were personal development, getting a job or improving it. Migrants also stated that they were "seeking adventure", and, those who went to the United States, said that their purpose was to solve family problems, or to follow tradition. Most of them had planned to stay at their new home for just one season, although a majority stayed over one year.

2. Drug abuse.

All participants had consumed alcohol and almost 90% of them had smoked tobacco at least once in their lives. The illegal substances consumed by both migrating and non migrating participants included, in decreasing frequency order: cocaine, marijuana, inhalants, methamphetamines and sedatives. Prevalence among the migrating abusers was higher.

Non migrating abusers, also consumed tranquilizers, heroine and other opiates. On the other hand, migrating abusers, had consumed, at least once in a lifetime one or more of the following substances: ecstasy, crack, basuco, methamphetamine, amphetamines, LSD

and PCP.

Migrants showed a higher percentage of those who had used central nervous system inhibitors (except methamphetamine), and most of them had used a combination of drugs. Those migrating to the United States predominantly consumed drugs to stimulate the central nervous system or to produce hallucinations, and also used some other non specified substances.

Drug preference perception.

Both groups reported a preference towards marijuana and cocaine. However, migrating abusers showed an additional preference for methamphetamine use. Migrating abusers stated that the reason for consuming this drug was mainly seeking stimulation, just to feel active and euphoric. The ones who migrated to the United States mentioned that they consume methamphetamine because of labor reasons, such as to be more productive and alert.

Drug abuse before, during and after migrating.

Eighty percent of migrating abusers had already used drugs before leaving their home town. During the migrating process the drug abuse pattern changed by increasing the use of some other drugs. Migrating abusers mentioned that they had used cocaine at their home place, but that during the migrating process, its consumption was significantly higher. They also mentioned that they continued using cocaine when they came back home, although at a lower rate.

There was no record of opiates' use such as morphine, darvon, nubain or methadone when these abusers were in their home town, before migrating. They started using these drugs when they arrived to the north of Mexico or to the United States, and they continued using them when they returned.

Only some abusers had used methamphetamine, crack, heroine and PCP before migrating. However, when they arrived to their migrating place, the use of these drugs was highly increased although it was reduced considerably when they returned home. LSD was consumed only at the migrating places.

The use of tranquilizers and mushrooms was slightly decreased during the migrating process, but it increased when abusers returned home. In the case of those who went to the border, heroine abuse increased, and it decreased as abusers returned home. Only some of them used methamphetamine and ecstasy at their migrating places.

On the other hand, those migrating abusers that went to the United States increased their use of methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, and crack, although it decreased when they returned home.

Some migrating abusers started using heroin when they arrived to the border, and only continued consuming it when they came home.

Palabras llave : Migration; emigration; immigration; migrating; migrant; drug abuse.

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