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Student JAMA
June 16, 2004

Faith-Based Treatment for Addiction in Puerto Rico

JAMA. 2004;291(23):2882. doi:10.1001/jama.291.23.2882

In 1997 the US Drug Enforcement Administration identified Puerto Rico as the Caribbean epicenter of illicit cocaine and heroin trade between Latin America and the United States and in 2001 designated it as a zone of high-intensity drug traffic.1,2 In 1998 a household-based survey of Puerto Rican adults aged 15 to 64 years found that 5.6% of the population was in need of substance abuse treatment.3 Furthermore, between 2000 and 2003, Puerto Rico's drug-related homicide rate was 3 times the US average.4 At that time, the Puerto Rican legislature voted to define drug dependence as a spiritual and social problem, rather than simply a mental health disorder.5 The resolution reflected the high prevalence of faith-based programs for addiction treatment. Indeed, the Puerto Rican Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration found that as of 1998, faith-based residential addiction treatment centers comprised 75% of all state-registered drug treatment programs.6

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