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A Qualitative View of Drug Use Behaviors of Mexican Male Injection Drug Users Deported from the United States


Deportees are a hidden yet highly vulnerable and numerous population. Significantly, little data exists about the substance use and deportation experiences of Mexicans deported from the United States. This pilot qualitative study describes illicit drug use behaviors among 24 Mexico-born male injection drug users (IDUs), ≥ 18 years old, residing in Tijuana, Mexico who self-identified as deportees from the United States. In-person interviews were conducted in Tijuana, Mexico in 2008. Content analysis of interview transcripts identified major themes in participants' experiences. Few participants had personal or family exposures to illicit drugs prior to their first U.S. migration. Participants reported numerous deportations. Social (i.e., friends/family, post-migration stressors) and environmental factors (e.g., drug availability) were perceived to contribute to substance use initiation in the U.S. Drugs consumed in the United States included marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and crack. More than half of men were IDUs prior to deportation. Addiction and justice system experiences reportedly contributed to deportation. After deportation, several men injected new drugs, primarily heroin or methamphetamine, or a combination of both drugs. Many men perceived an increase in their substance use after deportation and reported shame and loss of familial social and economic support. Early intervention is needed to stem illicit drug use in Mexican migrant youths. Binational cooperation around migrant health issues is warranted. Migrant-oriented programs may expand components that address mental health and drug use behaviors in an effort to reduce transmission of blood-borne infections. Special considerations are merited for substance users in correctional systems in the United States and Mexico, as well as substance users in United States immigration detention centers. The health status and health behaviors of deportees are likely to impact receiving Mexican communities. Programs that address health, social, and economic issues may aid deportees in resettling in Mexico.

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