Main menu

Weekly Chart: What Latin Americans Think about When They Think about Drugs

July 21, 2015

Latin Americans view marijuana as less dangerous than both alcohol and tobacco.
When it comes to drugs and alcohol, Salvadorans are the regional teetotalers.
In Peru, young people are much more likely to link marijuana use to criminal activity than older generations.

Opinion on drugs in Latin America varies widely, with neighbors often differing sharply. In this Weekly Chart, we look at opinions of nine countries surveyed by Asuntos Del Sur in their annual report on public opinion on drugs and drug policy.

In addition to the charts below, the report also looks at evolving opinion among youth over the last few years. More young people in Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, and especially Argentina are making the association between marijuana use and criminal activity in 2014–2015 than did in 2012, while youth in Colombia and El Salvador are less likely to link the two together than they were a few years ago. Mexican youth in particular are about 50 percent more likely to support legalization of drugs than the generations before them.

The survey also asked comparative questions about alcohol and tobacco. While just over half of the region (55 percent) has had a drink and 30 percent have had a smoke in the last 30 days, about four in five Argentines (81 percent) say they have. On the flip side, Salvadorans are the regional teetotalers, with half saying they’ve never had a drink in their life (47 percent) and a full three-fifths saying they’ve never smoked tobacco. Bolivians and Peruvians are the least likely to have ever tried cocaine (98 percent have not in both cases), while Argentines and Mexicans are relatively most likely (87 and 88 percent, respectively).

Across the region, marijuana is viewed as less dangerous than both alcohol and tobacco.