Inside the Secretive, Abusive World of Mexico's Private Drug Rehab Centers
You can't see the house from the street. It is surrounded by a towering wall laced with barbed wire fencing, and it boasts a large, locked, metal door.3 May 2016
Once inside, it seems peaceful. There are trees on the lawn, music playing, and rooms full of plush sofas and framed pictures of Jesus.
Then you go upstairs.
There, another locked door leads to a room filled with 80 drug addicts. There, the horror stories begin.
"It's been three months since I've seen my family or even gone downstairs," says one 36-year-old addict, who speaks very quietly in a corner of the room. "If they knew I was telling you these things, they'd beat me."
Mexican authorities provide very limited treatment for addicts, and almost no residential care, which means families struggling to cope rely almost exclusively on privately-run centers known colloquially as anexos, or annexes. The majority of the inhabitants, who are known as anexados, claim they were taken against their will and face a wide range of abuses — many of them criminal.
"It was surprising for me when I went to these centers and discovered stories of terror, abuse, mistreatment," says Carlos Zamudio, an anthropologist who specializes in drugs and addiction. He was the Mexico point person for an Open Society Foundations report, published in March, which detailed accusations of extreme physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at drug rehabilitation centers around Latin America, with an emphasis on Mexico's anexos.
Zamudio says that for him, the only thing more shocking than the tales he heard from addicts during his research was finding out their only option was to go to another one of these centers, which are sometimes worse.Share this on: