Mexico's methamphetamine precursor chemical interventions: impacts on drug treatment admissions


James K. Cunningham, Department of Family and Community Medicine, The University of Arizona, 1450 N. Cherry Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA. E-mail:


Aims  To help counter problems related to methamphetamine, Mexico has implemented interventions targeting pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, the precursor chemicals commonly used in the drug's synthesis. This study examines whether the interventions impacted methamphetamine treatment admissions—an indicator of methamphetamine consequences.

Design  Quasi-experiment: autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA)-based intervention time–series analysis. Interventions: precursor chemical restrictions implemented beginning November 2005; major rogue precursor chemical company closed (including possibly the largest single drug-cash seizure in history) March 2007; precursor chemicals banned from Mexico (North America's first precursor ban) August 2008.

Settings  Mexico and Texas (1996–2008).

Measurements  Monthly treatment admissions for methamphetamine (intervention series) and cocaine, heroin and alcohol (quasi-control series).

Findings  The precursor restriction was associated with temporary methamphetamine admissions decreases of 12% in Mexico and 11% in Texas. The company closure was associated with decreases of 56% in Mexico and 48% in Texas; these decreases generally remained to the end of the study period. Neither intervention was associated with significant changes in the Mexico or Texas quasi-control series. The analysis of Mexico's ban was indeterminate due largely to a short post-ban series.

Conclusions  This study, one of the first quasi-experimental analyses of an illicit-drug policy in Mexico, indicates that the country's precursor interventions were associated with positive impacts domestically and in one of the Unites States' most populous states—Texas. These interventions, coupled with previous US and Canadian interventions, amount to a new, relatively cohesive level of methamphetamine precursor control across North America's largest nations, raising the possibility that the impacts found here could continue for an extended period.