Mexican drug cartels have depended on sales of illicit drugs like cocaine, marijuana and heroin for their profits. According to federal authorities, an increasing number of Mexican drug traffickers are now dealing
in prescription drugs. These traffickers are forming “Pharma-Cartels” and focusing on selling highly addictive prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin to customers in the U.S.
The cartels are diverting prescription painkillers from hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices in the U.S. and selling them on pharmacy websites and in pain clinics and pharmacies in Mexican border towns. Drugs that are sold by the cartels over the Internet are advertised on Twitter and with popup ads. Some cartels are
also creating counterfeit pills, often in unsanitary makeshift labs in rundown apartments.
NBC San Diego recently reported that the U.S. Attorney’s office has brought charges against more than 25 suspected prescription drug traffickers from Mexico since 2009. Some of those who were prosecuted were webmasters who ran pharmaceutical websites as well as couriers, pharmacy workers and one doctor.
Preventing These Drugs From Entering the Home
Drug authorities recommend that U.S. parents monitor their kids’ online activity to make sure they’re not trying to purchase prescription drugs over the Internet. Sherrie Rubin, a local mother whose son purchased OxyContin from a pharmacy in Tijuana, is joining with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to spread the work about the dangers involved in purchasing prescription painkillers from Mexico. Her son Aaron is now paraplegic and unable to speak after overdosing on OxyContin in 2005. With prescription drug overdose being the leading cause of accidental death in San Diego County, Rubin says she feels lucky that her son is still alive.
As prescription drug abuse has risen in the United States in the past decade, cocaine use has fallen from 2.4 million users in 2006 to 1.4 million in 2012. Perhaps to compensate for lost income, traditional cartels are coercing Pharma-Cartels to pay them in order to be allowed to operate. In a few reported cases, traditional traffickers have used violence to enforce their “taxation” of Pharma-Cartels. Pharmaceutical traffickers are also reported to be using violence to establish their operations.
U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy has stated that authorities will pursue prescription drug pushers with the same passion that has been shown for dismantling cartels that sell heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Duffy has joined the Medicine Abuse Project at Drugfree.org. The goal of the project is to prevent half a million teens from abusing prescription medication over the next five years.