Comments Off on Here’s How America’s Love Of Methamphetamine Helped Create The Hellish Mexican Drug War

 South of the border there’s an ongoing war between cartels, police  and the army that has resulted in the deaths of thousands — and America’s love  of methamphetamine plays a direct role in it.


breaking bad

Breaking  Bad returns to the TV screens this Sunday, giving legions of fans a chance to  catch another glimpse of Walter White’s growing methamphetamine empire.  However, no matter what how far Walter descends, it may be difficult for it  to truly capture the hellish situation that methamphetamine has helped created  in Mexico.



America’s Relationship With Meth

Amphetamines have an interesting history in America. They were first  formulated in the turn of the 20th century, and first medically used in the  1930s.

In the 1950s and 60s there was growing concern about widespread recreational  use of both amphetamine and methamphetamine (use amongst “Speed Freaks” was  said to be as widespread as marijuana), and both were made Schedule II  substances in 1970, which put strict restrictions on their sale and usage.

According to “Methamphetamine  Use: Lessons Learned”, a report to the National Institute of Justice  published in February 2006, the drug first begun to reappear in the Hawaii and  the West in the 1980s, manufactured by motorcycle gangs with simple methods.

While usage figures are hard to come by, these charts  from “Methamphetamine Use: Lessons Learned” appear to show that the  drug enjoyed a huge increase in popularity in the US in the 1990s:

Meth Usage Chart


Meth Usage Chart


It’s believed that meth use declined dramatically  around 2005, but the US  National Drug Threat Assessment 2011 found that “rates of methamphetamine  abuse appear to be increasing” — in part because of the increasing scale and  sophistication of Mexican production. One recent UN report found that the drug  was now the second most common drug worldwide.

Why Meth Is So Attractive To The Cartels

Criminal organizations in Mexico have long been involved in the drug trade,  but traditionally played second fiddle to the Colombian cartels, as they lacked  the natural resources that enabled South American drug producers to cultivate  crops for heroin and cocaine.

US intervention in Colombia has gradually led to the South American cartels  losing influence, but another factor in the Mexican cartels rise is the method  in which methamphetamine is made — as a synthetic drug, it is made indoors, and  doesn’t require a certain type of climate.

In  an article on the Mexican drug trade for the New Yorker, William Finnegen  writes that the country’s meth trade got a huge boost in the 1990s as US law  enforcement clamped down on labs north of the border. Soon Mexican cartels, who  had previously worked mostly in trafficking drugs from producers in other  countries, were setting up their own industrial scale labs that operated in a  scale that would be impossible in the US (unless you are Walter White,  obviously). A 2007 report from the DEA  found 80% of methamphetamine found in the US came from “larger laboratories  operated by Mexican-based syndicates on both sides of the border.”

The drug is believed to be one of the most profitable, with reports that it is  more profitable than cocaine, the substance that made Pablo Escobar one of the  richest people on earth in the early 1990s.

The Result

With those big profits, comes big competition. The Sinaloa cartel moved  into meth production in the 1990s, Finnegen  writes, and the notoriously bloody Zeta cartel — smelling a profit — later  began a series of hostile takeovers of meth labs.

The end result of more competition is more bodies —Mexico’s  drug violence is thought to have killed 50,000 people  in the last six  years.




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