Mexico’s president launches program to stem rising drug addiction

World Today

While authorities around the world seek to put drug traffickers behind bars, many government programs are also focused on the consumers. Mexico is known for its drug kingpins and gangsters. But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is focusing a new anti-drug program on abuse prevention. CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports.

Raul is a recovering drug addict who began using narcotics at just 12 years old.

“I first made the decision to take drugs because I had a lot of problems at home, and access to drugs is very easy,” he said.

He isn’t alone. At this Narcotics Anonymous meeting in the Mexican capital, the vast majority of attendees have struggled since childhood with addiction, a worsening problem in the country.

Mexican government survey data shows drug use among minors has more than quadrupled since 2002, with more than 1 in 20 Mexicans between the ages of 12-17 saying they have consumed illegal drugs.

“Our society has a great wealth of cultural, moral and spiritual values, which we know will be able to reduce drug use,” Lopez Obrador said.

This summer, Lopez Obrador, known by his initials AMLO, launched a new initiative to fight drug abuse called ‘Together For Peace’, which he says will concentrate on the “wellbeing of the soul.”

The president’s anti-drug addiction strategy is based on “instilling values” in the country’s younger generation. With the cooperation of the federal ministries for education, sports and culture – and volunteer social workers, AMLO aims to keep kids away from drugs by promoting the many positive alternatives available to them.

Esteban Illades is the editor of a Mexican political magazine, and says this is a new approach, from a new kind of leader.

“AMLO definitely sees himself sort of like the father of the family, like Mexico is one big family, and he is the father. He talks about drug addiction like it being a problem of the soul, about it being a problem of conscience, a problem of spirit, which is a very different approach from what we are used to. This is public policy just going by gut feeling, so we’re uncertain about what is going to happen with this approach,” Illades said.

AMLO aims to recruit 5,000 young people to fan out across the country in what he’s calling “peace brigades” to engage with at-risk youth in schools and popular public spaces and events.

Roberto Karam Araujo applauds the initiative. He’s the president of Alcoholics Anonymous Mexico.

“It’s very important in young people because it’s during youth that addictions are formed. According to the World Health Organization, if by the age of 23, a person has not developed an addiction, the probability of attaining an addiction from then on is one in 100. The act of talking about your problems and sharing them with other people has a big impact when it comes to the illness,” Araujo said.