A “tidal wave” of dangerous synthetic drugs is flooding New York City, with methamphetamines and fentanyl pouring over the U.S. southern border at alarming rates and quickly finding their way into local neighborhoods, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency said.
This influx of dangerous drugs is having a deadly impact on the streets of New York, according to an April 30 report from local health officials.
“Fentanyl is up, a heroin rise is going on in New Year City and a very new wave that hit New York City is meth,” DEA special agent Ray Donovan told The Post. “We’re seizing a lot more meth than ever before.”
He called the surge a “tidal wave.”
Meth seizures in New York City skyrocketed more than 200 percent last year, from 244 kilograms in 2019 to 755 kilos in 2020 – a haul with a reported street value of more than $29 million, according to the DEA. Just 28 kilos of meth were impounded as recently as 2012.
The amount of fentanyl seized climbed 41 percent, from 254 kilos in 2019 to 359 in 2020.
Meth first gained widespread use in rural America in the 1970s as a cheap substitute for cocaine. It remained largely a problem in small-town America until very recently. A 2009 report by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, for example, found 1,571 “clandestine” meth laboratory incidents in largely rural Missouri, and just 14 in New York state.
Meth has since found its way into larger urban centers such as New York City, along with fentanyl. The COVID outbreak of the past year only fueled their availability, the DEA told The Post. The virus and the various shutdowns that went with it created a shortage of other street drugs so Mexican cartels quickly filled the void with their factory-manufactured products.
Donovan said Mexican cartels “strategically expanded” their line of synthetic meth and fentanyl into the Northeast during the COVID crisis, calling the drugs “cheap, highly potent, accessible, easy to conceal … and very dangerous.”
The crisis continues here in 2021 as the border faces its worst crisis in two decades.
The U.S. is “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last month. Critics say President Biden’s border policies have only heightened the crisis.
The city suffered 1,446 overdose deaths in the first three quarters of 2020, the last period for which data is available, according to a report from the city Health Department.
That’s a 38 percent increase from the 1,046 people who died of overdoses in the same period of 2019.
The DOH report said that more than 75 percent of those deaths included fentanyl and that “New Yorkers who use drugs are more likely to encounter fentanyl than ever before” because it’s mixed with so many other drugs.
The Health Department report stated that during the last quarter of 2020, “more than 80 percent of heroin tested contained fentanyl” and that testing also found fentanyl in “cocaine, ketamine, and methamphetamine, as well as benzodiazepines and opioid analgesics acquired from non-pharmaceutical sources.”
The appeal of fentanyl to dealers, DEA officials say, is that it’s heavily addictive which means more return business.
Fentanyl and meth these days are manufactured in industrial labs in Mexico, smuggled across the U.S. border, and then shipped by trailer truck or personal vehicle to distribution points across the country – often in liquid or powder form where it’s converted into crystal meth in makeshift labs or packaged into capsules inside New York City “pill mills.”
The city’s first known meth conversion lab in the Bronx was raided by authorities in February, where they seized 22 pounds of meth, 45 grams of heroin and 2,000 narcotic pills.
Also in February, Mexican nationals Jose Loreto Gastelum-Torres and Fredy Alejandro Gastelum-Vega were charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to smuggle into the U.S. 2.5 tons of meth and 100,000 fentanyl pills – valued at more than $90 million.