After analyzing population and drug trends in Mexico, researchers have determined that there is a threat for the opioid epidemic that exists in the United States to spread across the border. According to the study, opioid use in Mexico has been low, but new legislation and an aging population are increasing the chance for more widespread use of the drug.
The investigation was focused on published academic literature, federal documents and guidelines, and news reports related to opioid use in Mexico.
The experts found many factors that have kept opioid use low in Mexico, such as the difficulty for physicians to obtain special prescription pads for controlled substances, limits on the number of prescriptions per prescriber, and strict guidelines on opioid storage.
The high cost of opioids in Mexico is another factor that has helped to keep their use to a minimum. The researchers also noted a widespread perception among Mexicans that opioids are only for terminally ill patients and are illegal.
However, Mexico’s population of residents who are 65 and older will more than double by 2030. This means that more people will be diagnosed with conditions that will create a demand for opioids to relieve pain.
Furthermore, recent legislative changes will make it easier for opioids to be prescribed and national health insurance coverage will include opioids. The study also revealed that pharmaceutical companies are putting pressure on Mexico to boost prescriptions to compensate for stricter regulations and a declining market in the United States.
Study lead author Dr. David Goodman-Meza is a clinical instructor in the UCLA Division of Infectious Diseases. He explained that, since the United States is contributing to Mexico’s opioid problem, this is a potential joint epidemic.
According to Dr. Goodman-Meza, the U.S. should provide resources for the mitigation of a possible opioid epidemic in the same way the country provides resources for the ‘war on drugs’ in Mexico. For example, a system could be developed to monitor opioid use or drug addiction treatment centers could be established.
The research is published in the American Journal of Public Health.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer