Abstract: In North America, opioid use and its harms have increased in the United States and Canada over the past 2 decades. However, Mexico has yet to document patterns suggesting a higher level of opioid use or attendant harms.
Historically, Mexico has been a country with low-level use of opioids, although heroin use has been documented. Low-level opioid use is likely attributable to structural, cultural, and individual factors. However, a range of dynamic factors may be converging to increase the use of opioids: legislative changes to opioid prescribing, national health insurance coverage of opioids, pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, changing demographics and disease burden, forced migration and its trauma, and an increase in the production and trafficking of heroin. In addition, harm-reduction services are scarce.
Mexico may transition from a country of low opioid use to high opioid use but has the opportunity to respond effectively through a combination of targeted public health surveillance of high-risk groups, preparation of appropriate infrastructure to support evidence-based treatment, and interventions and policies to avoid a widespread opioid use epidemic.