MEXICO CITY — America’s drug problem is shifting from illicit substances like cocaine to abuse of prescription painkillers, a change that is forcing policy makers to re-examine the long and expensive strategy of trying to stop illegal drugs from entering the United States. This rethinking extends beyond the United States, where policy makers are debating how to better reduce demand for painkillers. The effects would also be felt here and in Central America: With the drug wars in Mexico enflaming violence, some argue that the money now used for interdiction could be better spent building up the institutions — especially courts and prosecutors’ offices — which would lead to long-term stability in Mexico and elsewhere.
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