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Untitled Essay, Research Paper
U.S. SCOURGE SPREADS SOUTH OF THE BORDER In a recent newspaper article written in the San Diego Union Tribune
called “U.S. Scourge Spreads South.” A very disturbing fact was opening drug
doors just south of our own community, which is why I chose to do an in depth study of the
easiness of drug purchase in our southern neighbor. It’s not new news but a
overwhelming growth in the usage of drugs, especially Rohypnol.
“The Mexican border town called Tijuana across from San Diego,
California, once was a famous as a playground for drunken sailors and college students.
Today, authorities on both sides of the border warn, it has turned into a gangland run by
a growing number of ruthless cartels that sell drugs. It is no longer just marijuana
(pot), but a growing problem with other types of drugs like Heroin, Crystal
Methamphetamine, and Cocaine.”
I recently visited the neighbor city of Tijuana and rode in a Tijuana
taxi and was immediately met with a taxi driver named Jose, a Tijuana taxi driver in an
open-necked, baby blue silk shirt, he sizes up the tourists trudging off the footbridge
from the United States. “Taxi, sir? You want pharmacy? I get you a good
pharmacy,” he urges, stepping from a line of beckoning taxi drivers in big belts and
straw cowboy hats. “Good prices! No prescriptions!” Do I look like I want
drugs?! I didn’t even solicit the business. I almost felt weird because this is
exactly what I was planning to do my paper on. Soon he is nosing his long yellow
Oldsmobile through scruffy streets choked with pharmacies. I asked for Somas-a drug that
gives the user a feeling of drunkenness without all the liquor, and illegal in the United
States. In less than 45 minutes I was able to purchase the drug right over the counter. Of
course, I didn’t actually purchase the drug, but kindly told the pharmacy that his
price was too high.
This just goes to show you how easy it was to get an illegal drug just
30 minutes from SDSU. And instead of being sold by gun-toting drug traffickers, it is
available in much of Latin America with a doctor’s prescription–often easily
obtained. It appears to be crossing the U.S. border via booming pharmacies in cities such
The sudden popularity of the drug (Somas) has returned the spotlight to
Mexico’s border drugstores, which for years have done a thriving business with
Americans but have recently exploded in number with the Tijuana residents. “Tijuana
residents are nearly twice as likely to have used an illegal drug as Mexicans
Drugs are not only a problem with our poverty ridden society here in
U.S., but with a lot of our middle to upper class are now being the focus of drug usage.
In a recent news broadcast, Rancho Bernardo, Scripps Ranch, and other well to do
communities are being hit with a heroin craze with our youths. I couldn’t believe
people would actually want to stick a needle in their arm for joy and pleasure. It is no
longer the sniff, smoking of drugs but a whole new trend of slamming (using needles to
induce a drug). Even the worldwide scare of Aids doesn’t keep the drug of heroin from
society. Dirty needles also scar the arms of the heroin addict for life. “At the
municipal jail, inmates detained the night before for minor infractions such as loitering
or fighting in public pull up their sleeves and bare arms covered with needle
Rohypnol is another nightmare for every parent in America which is
another easily obtained drug in the pharmacies in Tijuana. This is the drug also known as
the “date-rape drug,” which has been televised many of times. But unlike heroin
or cocaine, Rohypnol has a respected corporate manufacturer–the Swiss pharmaceutical
giant F. Hoffman-La Roche, which produces in Mexico City. There are so many American
tourists buying drugs that Tijuana’s pharmacies have doubled in the past five years
and now number around 700.
With their cheap, government-controlled prices, they have drawn tens of
thousands of Californians, often retirees, who snap up brand-name blood pressure,
cholesterol and other medications, often saving 50% of more. and thanks to looser
regulations, the pharmacies also readily sell drugs that are unavailable or require
prescriptions in the United States, from Prozac to treatments for Aids and cancer.
On Tijuana’s Avenida Revolucion, a tourist strip where merchants
hawk liquor and Cuban cigars amid the blare of mariachi music, bustling drugstores with
names like Pharmacy America and New York Pharmacy ring up an average of $3000.00 in sales
a day, a local Tijuana pharmacist said.
While they lack hard proof, U.S. authorities have told the Mexican
government at a couple of meetings in the past month that they believe the pharmacies are
selling Rohypnol to young Americans. Mexican officials say they are cracking down. Well,
they say they are, but are they? With so much government corruption, especially in the
city of Tijuana, you can only think of how much money is being made in this enterprise and
who’s getting some kick-backs.
My recent visit to Tijuana indicates that Rohypnol is still readily
available. It has become a revolving door doctor atmosphere. The U.S. police first began
to spot abuse of Rohypnol, the brand for drug flunitrazepam, in 1993. Although it has
never been approved for use in the United States, the sleeping medication is sold legally
in 64 countries.
But it wasn’t insomniacs who use the drug in Florida and Texas,
where Rohypnol first became a problem. The small, inexpensive pills were popped by addicts
to heighten a heroin trip, or by teenagers who wanted to feel drunk. Rock star Kurt Cobain
overdosed on Rohypnol and champagne a month before killing himself.
The most widely know cases are that Rohypnol is blamed in numerous
date-rape cases. Men allegedly have slipped it into their companions’ drinks,
rendering them unconscious. Since the drug causes short-term memory loss, women have
awakened confused and dishelved, only to learn that they have been assaulted.
The Drug Enforcement Agency says it has logged more than 2,400 criminal
cases involving Rohypnol. As it increasingly turns up in California, legislators are
trying to establish prison terms for people possessing or selling the pills, nicknamed
“roofies.” Last month, Florida put Rohypnol into the same legal category as
heroin and cocaine.
Worried about the abuse, Hoffman-La Roche has slashed its Rohypnol
distributors in Mexico from 200 to 16 and said it hired a former DEA agent, who
established that there was no diversion from its Mexico City factory. The U.S. authorities
don’t see much of a let-up in the amount of Rohypnol from hitting the streets.
Even with recent actions, Rohypnol has become much tougher to obtain
and sell, several drugstore owners said. Nonetheless, in a personal visit to 15
pharmacies, I was able to find one willing to sell it over the counter. Others suggested
nearby doctors who would provide a prescription. I went to nearby medical office lined
with oil paintings of Jesus, I filled out a brief form asking if I had ulcers or heart
attacks. At no point was I asked of my symptoms. A doctor with a white coat glanced at the
form and asked what drug I wanted. “Rohypnol,” I replied. “Each
prescription is $25,” he responded. The visit lasted a brief 10 minutes. No comment
on the exact location of the medical office in order to protect my source of information.
I took the prescription to one the Tijuana pharmacies and the price for
Rohypnol was $10. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration frowns on the practice,
there is nothing stopping Americans from buying most medicines from Mexican pharmacies.
U.S. Customs normally allows Americans to bring in a “personal supply” of
prescription drugs-up to 90 days worth, to be declared a the border. The average age of
the consumer was around 34 (when I asked one of the United States Customs agents). I feel
the Rohypnol problem is fairly new in California, but also Californians may simply be
stuffing the drug in tote bags or pockets.
Rohypnol is also apparently being smuggled to the United States from
Columbia, where Hoffman-La Roche has a plant. But what is turning up in Texas and
California is from Mexico and appears to be coming through the pharmacies. The Haight
Ashbury Clinics, a San Francisco group, recently conducted Hoffman-La Roche- funded
studies of Rohypnol in Florida and Texas.
I made a recent phone call to the Los Angeles Police Department and
found out that the police officers were provide free kits to detect Rohypnol in urine. In
the state of Florida they use the kit to convict date-rapists.
““Here we have everything, and it’s very
accessible,” said Sanjuana Covarrubias, director of the Centros facility in
Some U.S. officials would like even tougher action. Specifically, the
DEA is pushing to have the sedative classified as a Schedule 1 drug, as Florida did last
month. that permits prosecutors to seek sentences such as those imposed for selling heroin
Currently, the drug flunitrazepam is classified in the United States as
a schedule four drug, defined as substances with low potential for abuse and acceptable
for medical use in the United States. When the drug is legally administered, it is used
for the short-term treatment of insomnia and as a mild sedative. Rohypnol is marketed in
one milligram and two milligrams varieties, with two milligrams being considered a
During my research, I found that most of the people bringing the drug
across are very young aged, college students. All they have to do is fill out a
declaration form (which lists what they are bringing across the border).
The Office of National Drug Control Policy says the use of Rohypnol may
lead to the development of physical and psychological dependence. The risk of dependence
increases with dose and duration and can be considered greater in patients with histories
of alcohol and drug abuse. One physical dependence has developed, abrupt termination of
the drug will result in withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, muscle pains, extreme
anxiety, tension, confusion and irritability. Extreme cases of withdrawal may experience
numbness and tingling of the extremities, hypersensitivity to light and noise, convulsions
and hallucinations. I believe that education on this drug and it’s effects need to be
addressed in the near future; if not now, because our youths are going to suffer in the
long run and so will out communities.
Rohypnol is very hard to detect and only one way to get a positive
reading is to do a urine sample. Even this detection process is very costly, which means
it is hard to prosecute because of this reason. You have to be specifically trying to
detect this type of drug in order to get a positive reading.
In conclusion, it is very evident on the problem with drugs in the
border town of Tijuana. I have identified the danger of drugs, easiness in obtaining drugs
in Tijuana, U.S. side usage, Mexico side usage, Rohypnol, affects and side affects and
finally the U.S. noticing the problem and taking a step to combat the drug. I feel that
the United States is not well educated on the problem with Rohypnol here in this country.
Most parents would never know of such a drug existed, and especially the easiness of
obtaining the drug. I might have heard of the drug once being a student here at SDSU, but
it exists and seems to be the hush-hush; lets keep it ourselves secret drug. We need to
take a stand and get the media involved in this, so the parents of an unexpected casualty
doesn’t have to hear about it from an autopsy report. The literature and statistics
are there, but finding it can be a different task at hand. A war on drugs can’t be
won unless we all take an active role in the cause!
BIBLIOGRAPHYDibble, Sandra. “U.S. Scourge spreads South.” The San Diego Union Tribune
Sunday, November 17, 1996.Trotta, Dan. “FEATURE-U.S.-Mexico border becomes fertile new killing ground.”
Reuters, October 24, 1996.
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