Synthetic drugs are gaining popularity in Latin America

Trafficking in synthetic drugs such as methamphetamines (MDMA), fentanyl and ecstasy is on the rise in Latin America, with new markets, routes and substances challenging the traditional dominance of herbal narcotics, InSight Crime , an organization that studies organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a report in mid-September.

“Synthetic drugs have recently gained ground, not only in our region, but globally. However, it is important to differentiate between methamphetamines, ecstasy and fentanyl,” said Carolina Sampó, coordinator of the Center for Studies on Transnational Organized Crime in Argentina. Dialogo September 30. ” In the case of [fentanyl]it is a synthetic opioid […]which generates high levels of addiction and causes a high incidence of overdose deaths in the United States and Canada.

“Fentanyl is a phenomenon that happens much more in the United States, but it would be a red flag if it were to appear in the southern part of the continent,” said organized crime expert Eugenio Burzaco, former secretary Argentinian to Security. Dialogo. “The situation regarding fentanyl use is complex in the United States due to the 50,000 to 60,000 deaths per year among drug users.”

Mexican methamphetamines are being exported in large quantities to the Asia-Pacific region, fentanyl is being added in South America to make them more potent, and the flow of ecstasy from Europe to the Southern Cone is increasing, the report adds. On the other hand, ketamine becomes an essential ingredient in drug cocktails such as tusi, also known as pink cocaine.

In recent months, Colombian and Panamanian authorities have detected an increase in the marketing and consumption of tusi, a compound of cocaine, LSD and MDMA, a combination of psychotropic substances that causes hallucinogenic effects and a feeling of euphoria.

Thousands of young people use the drug, leading criminal organizations to seek them out in the process of buying and selling the highly addictive drug, the radio station NCR Colombia announced September 20.

In September, Panamanian authorities dismantled laboratories in Panama that produce tusi, while national police arrested Colombian and Mexican nationals involved in the crime, according to the Panamanian news site Telemetro reported.

For Burzaco, “Latin America is progressing in the trafficking of methamphetamines and ecstasy, and their marketing sometimes replaces drugs derived from plants, such as coca and marijuana”.

Another substance that alerts the authorities is kratom, a tropical plant native to Southeast Asia whose leaves contain compounds with psychotropic effects. On September 8, Chilean customs reported the seizure of 40 kilograms of kratom at Santiago International Airport in two packages arriving from the United Arab Emirates.

Following the discovery, María José Rodríguez, head of Chile’s Metropolitan Customs Control Department, said the drug was new to the illegal market and warned that its use is very harmful to health and can be fatal when taken. mixed with other substances.

According to the InSight Crime report, trafficking in new psychoactive substances (NPS) in Latin America is growing at a rapid rate, perhaps even more so in Chile, which, along with Brazil and Argentina, are among the largest centers of NPS of the region.

Chilean authorities identified more than 60 NSPs in December 2020, the second highest number in all of Latin America after Brazil, according to a 2021 report on synthetic drugs from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. , said InSight Crime.

“Synthetic drugs seem to be here to stay and don’t necessarily compete with herbal drugs. On the contrary, the increase in the consumption of all drugs in recent years seems to show that it is difficult to think of the replacement of one type of drug by another, but rather to think of new users and those who use different types of drugs. at different times in their lives,” concluded Sampó.

Alvin J. Chase