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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

as Tijuana.

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

or cocaine.

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

“heavy dose.”

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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