At the borders, on the edge: use of injected methamphetamine in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

J Immigr Minor Health. 2008 Feb;10(1):23-33. doi: 10.1007/s10903-007-9051-0.


Injection drug use is of increasing concern along the US-Mexico border where Tijuana and Ciudad (Cd.) Juarez are located. Methamphetamine has long been manufactured and trafficked through Mexico, with low rates of use within Mexico. With methamphetamine use now considered epidemic in the United States, and with associated individual and community harms such as HIV, STDs, domestic violence and crime, there is concern that rates of methamphetamine in the Northwestern border regions of Mexico may be rising. We conducted a qualitative study to explore the context of injection drug use in Tijuana and Cd. Juarez and included questions about methamphetamine. Guided in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 male and 10 female injection drug users (IDUs) in Tijuana and 15 male and 8 female IDUs in Cd. Juarez (total N = 43). Topics included types of drug used, injection settings, access to sterile needles and environmental influences. Interviews were taped, transcribed verbatim and translated. Content analysis was conducted to identify themes. The median age of injectors in both cities was 30. Methamphetamine was injected, either alone or in combination with other drugs by injectors in both Tijuana (85%) and Cd. Juarez (17%) in the 6 months previous to interview. Several important themes emerged with respect to methamphetamine use in both cities. IDUs in both cities considered methamphetamine to be widely used in Tijuana and infrequently used in Cd. Juarez, while the converse was true for cocaine. In both cities, stimulant (either cocaine or methamphetamine) use was widespread, with 85% in Tijuana and 83% in Cd. Juarez reporting current use of a stimulant, most often used in combination with heroin. Some injectors reported knowledge of local manufacturing and one had direct experience in making methamphetamine; some cross-border use and trafficking was reported. Injectors reported concerns or experience with serious health effects of methamphetamine such as abscesses or tuberculosis. Our study suggests that injected methamphetamine is entrenched in Tijuana and that Cd. Juarez may experience a methamphetamine outbreak in the future. Robust targeted interventions for both injected and non-injected methamphetamine should be a public health priority in both cities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Crime / ethnology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Life Style / ethnology*
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / administration & dosage*
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / ethnology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / ethnology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Methamphetamine