Drug Trafficking in San Juan
San Juan, Puerto Rico is a major center for drug trafficking. Cocaine and heroin are the two controlled substances which traffickers most often smuggle through Puerto Rico to the United States mainland. The Puerto Rican government has estimated that only 10% of illegal drugs which traffickers bring into Puerto Rico remain on the island. Nevertheless, drug traffickers collect about $366 million in revenue every year from selling drugs in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico, according to the government.
The Puerto Rican Police Department regularly collaborates with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Border Patrol to arrest drug traffickers in San Juan and confiscate their illegal products. In 2018, authorities arrested 97 San Juan residents for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, heroin, synthetic opioids, and marijuana. In 2017, Puerto Rico police confiscated almost 66,000 pounds of cocaine worth $100 million in Puerto Rico, including in San Juan. Many traffickers bring drugs into San Juan on small boats which often depart from Venezuela. In fact, in 2018, Puerto Rican police seized 1,300 pounds of cocaine valued at $15.6 million from a single fishing boat.
Heroin and Opioids in San Juan
There are many Puerto Ricans in San Juan who are addicted to opioids, many of which are illegally manufactured and distributed. Many people who become addicted to opioids also try heroin, a highly dangerous opioid which is exacting a heavy toll on many lives in San Juan. In 2016, 72 Puerto Ricans suffered a fatal opioid overdose. In 2017, 68 people in Puerto Rico lost their lives to fentanyl, an opioid which is even more lethal than heroin and one which traffickers often lace into other drugs. Fentanyl claimed 40 lives in Puerto Rico within the first five months of 2018. Many San Juan residents are also struggling with addiction to other opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.
Substance Abuse and Violence in San Juan
Drug abuse destroys lives wherever it takes place, but illegal drugs have brought armed violence into San Juan along with fatal overdoses. In 2017, 169 people were murdered in San Juan. The Mayor of San Juan stated in 2018 that drug trafficking is the cause of many homicides in her city. Many Puerto Ricans who are involved in drug trafficking are under the age of 18 and live in poverty, and therefore they are more vulnerable to violence and exploitation. Sexual violence is also a major factor in the substance abuse crisis in Puerto Rico, especially among women. Sociologists from the US Department of Health and Human Services estimate that 73% of Puerto Rican women who are addicted to illegal drugs have suffered some form of sexual abuse, often from members of their own families.
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Substance Abuse in San Juan after Hurricane Maria
Puerto Rico suffered the worst natural disaster in its history when the Category 5 Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017. The hurricane destroyed thousands of homes, completely disabled electricity throughout Puerto Rico, and destroyed millions of dollars worth of agriculture. Researchers estimate that about 5,000 Puerto Ricans died as a result of Hurricane Maria and a subsequent humanitarian crisis which lasted for months while authorities worked to reopen transportation, rebuild infrastructure, and restore the power grid.
For Puerto Ricans who are addicted to illegal drugs, the effects of Hurricane Maria have been especially devastating. Non-profit organizations which provide medical treatment and counseling services to San Juan residents who are addicted to opioids and heroin have lost access to important financial resources and sometimes struggle to reach the people they hope to help. Some “harm reduction” organizations in San Juan are distributing clean syringes to drug users to make sure that they do not contract diseases from dirty needles, which are often the only needles available now after the hurricane. Although humanitarian groups are working hard to help addicted Puerto Ricans, the hurricane has caused the prices of illegal drugs to rise in San Juan and many people who are addicted now spend all the money they can obtain from begging to buy drugs and avoid withdrawal. Hurricane Maria has caused all Puerto Ricans to suffer, but substance abusers who already lived in poverty before the hurricane have become even more desperate and vulnerable in the post-Maria era.
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Finding Help in San Juan
For people in San Juan who are struggling to overcome addiction and substance abuse, the situation can be dire. Drug abuse and violence are serious problems in San Juan, but fortunately, anyone can reclaim their life from addiction with the right support. Please contact a dedicated treatment provider today to get more information on how where to go to start recovery.