2005, Number 2
Trends and pattern of cocaine use among adolescents and young adults in Mexico City. Information reporting system on drugs.
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ABSTRACTIntroduction and antecedents
The Information Reporting System on Drugs (IRSD) provides since 1986 an updated overview of the main trends and characteristics of drug use in Mexico City. It identifies the changes in patterns of use and provides information useful to estimate its future path. It is supported by the main health and justice agencies. Up to this date, it has carried out 34 evaluations and its data base includes 16377 cases.
Research on illicit drug use among adolescents and young adults started in our country during the 1970’s; in those days, the level of cocaine use was low. Nevertheless, its use has been increasing gradually.
Up to this date, different research reports indicate that cocaine, marihuana and solvent-inhalants are the most used illicit substances, especially among adolescents and young adults.
Based on a 2003 high school survey carried out in the Distrito Federal, the latest research results indicate that marihuana is the most used substance (7.2%), followed by solvent-inhalants (4.6%), tranquilizers (4.5%) and cocaine (4.0%).
Results of the most recent household survey carried out in 2002 indicate that 215,634 adolescents, between 12 and 17 years old, have ever used drugs. Excluding alcohol and tobacco, the first ever used drug in this group is marihuana, followed by solvent-inhalants and cocaine.
As it can be observed, these results highlight that cocaine use is an issue and a matter of concern due to its pharmacological characteristics, psychological and social implications, and also because it affects adolescents and young adults who conform the main population group of the country.
This paper presents results of the Information Reporting System on Drugs, which describe the trends of cocaine use for 1987- 2003 among users between 15 and 24 years old in Mexico City. It also describes the results of the evaluation carried out by the IRSD in June 2003 which include the sociodemographic characteristics of users, pattern of use, associated problems and slang words used to refer to this substance, according to the reports of the evaluated cases.
Material and method Instrument. The data collection instrument was the questionnaire “Informe Individual sobre Consumo de Drogas” (Individual Report on Drug Use). It gathers information about the sociodemo- graphic characteristics of users, the most used substances, their patterns of use, the new substances being used or the substances not being used anymore, the perception of the user about the problems associated to the drug use before and after the drug use life has started, among other variables.
This instrument is applied through an interview to individuals attending the participating agencies during the admission procedure.
Evaluations are carried out twice a year, during June and November. The cases are obtained from all the individuals attending the participating agencies during the evaluation periods, and who identify themselves as ever having used any substance without a prescription, and with the purpose of getting intoxicated; this is the case definition.
Since the beginning of the IRSD, the instrument, case definition, data processing and analysis procedures have remain similar in order to make comparisons.
Until June 2003, the IRSD carried out 34 evaluations and the data base includes 16377 cases.
Cocaine use trends: From 1987 to 2003, 9,120 cocaine cases were identified in the level “ever used”. They are between 15 and 24 years old and represent 55.6% of the total population of drug users identified during such period. The use of cocaine has been increasing in this group: in 1987 there were 3.1 cocaine users out of every 100 drug users in general; in 1992, this proportion increased to 9.0%. From this date, the level of use gradually increases, reaching 74.3% in November 1998; this is the highest level recorded. From this date up to 2003, cocaine use has maintained the highest level of use of all drugs, and its level of use has remained stable.
Evaluation number 34, carried out in June 2003, studied 770 cases of drug users; 533 of them reported having ever used cocaine. From this group, 293 cases (55%) are between 15 and 24 years old.
Sociodemographic characteristics: 89.7% of the cocaine users were male, 58.7% were between 15 and 19 years old and 41.3% were between 20 and 24; 81.7% were single, 61.9% belonged to the middle socioeconomic level; 45.3% completed high school. Occupational status includes both employed, 31.4%, and unemployed cases, 29.5%.
Pattern of use: 64% of the cocaine users started this behavior between 15 and 19 years old. 39.4% of the cocaine users are “light” users. The most frequent type of user follows a pattern of use between 1 to 5 times a month. 20.8% are “heavy” users: they use cocaine more than 20 times a month.
Most used drugs, besides alcohol and tobacco, were marihuana: 60.1%; solvent-inhalants: 39.9%; and sedative-tranquilizers: 15%.
Gender differences: Men and women have similar preferences regarding substance use. Nevertheless, women have higher levels of use for almost all the substances studied.
Associated problems: The users perceive problems associated to the onset of their drug use life, and also they perceive problems once this has started. Family problems are the most frequently reported ones, increasing in frequency after drug use behavior has settled. Excluding social problems, all the other problems also increase after the onset of the drug use life.
Slang words: Names used in the subculture of cocaine use to designate this substance, reported in this evaluation were: “cocaine”, “crack”, “piedra”, “cocaína piedra”, “cocaína polvo”, “blanca”, “bote”, “coca”, and “inhalada”.
As it has been indicated, IRSD provides twice a year an updated diagnosis of drug use in Mexico City.
Results indicate that during the period 1987-2003 cocaine use has three moments. The first one goes until 1992 and is characterized by a low level of use, below marihuana and solvent-inhalants; from there till 1998, its level reached the highest peak: 74 cocaine users out of every 100 drug users in general, with marihuana and cocaine occupying the second and third places. From this date to 2003, cocaine has remained stable in the first place.
The highest risk groups are adolescents and young adults, and this is true for the onset of use as well as for the chronic use.
This substance is a matter of concern due to its emotional and physical effects, but also because there are no indicators suggesting that the level of use will decrease.
The problem of cocaine use indicates the need of prevention programs starting during childhood and with a long-term vision. The goal should be to promote the development of social support networks to counteract the influence of drug use in general, as well as to promote healthy lifestyles non compatible with drugs.
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