DEA Warns of Alarming Post-COVID Rise in Drug Use; NY Sees 214% Jump in Meth Seizures

Although shadowed by COVID-19-related deaths, fatal drug overdoses continue to climb, according to the DEA

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What to Know

  • Alarming amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl were seized in New York during 2020, officials say -- much more than the prior year
  • The state has seen a whopping 214% jump in meth and a 59% rise in fentanyl seizures compared to the year prior, according to the New York Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
  • Both drugs are notoriously dangerous and potent and mass-produced by cartel; they're the two top contributors to overdose deaths in the U.S. between May 2019 and May 2020

Alarming amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl were seized in New York last year, reflecting a disturbing trend that has been overshadowed in part by coronavirus-related deaths, officials say.

The state saw a whopping 214 percent increase in meth seizures and a 59 percent rise in fentanyl seizures in 2020 compared with the year prior, according to the New York Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

According to the DEA, the alarm is two-fold: First, the spikes show an alarming trend in street drug use. Second, the amounts are highly concerning, considering methamphetamine and fentanyl are both notoriously dangerous and potent and mass-produced by cartels. They are the two top contributors when it comes to overdose deaths in the United States between May 2019 and May 2020, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) Health Alert Network.  

“Last month, the CDC Health Alert Network issued an advisory warning that drug overdose deaths significantly increased across the United States, especially deaths involving psychostimulants (methamphetamine) and synthetic opioids (fentanyl),” DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan said.  “There were an estimated 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States from May 2019 to May 2020 justifying a need to alert New Yorkers that drug overdose deaths lurk behind the public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”  

According to the DEA New York Division, agents seized nearly $170 million of drug proceeds and assets, and over $603 million dollars’ worth of illicit drugs. However, of particular significance is the unprecedented increase in meth and fentanyl seizures in New York which parallel CDC’s overdose death data. 

“When drug traffickers introduced fentanyl to the illicit drug market, they created a monster,” Donovan said in a statement. “Fentanyl has been a public health nuisance for several years and has taken too many lives too often.  We have seen fentanyl mixed with heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and even marijuana; and it is estimated that 60%+ of all drug overdose deaths in New York City involve fentanyl. Like methamphetamine, fentanyl is produced in ‘Super Labs’ by Mexican trafficking organizations, packaged, and pushed through the border for distribution across the nation.”    

Over the past year, DEA New York identified that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact in drug trafficking organizations operations’ production, packaging, transportation, distribution, and money laundering tactics.

Although the cartels' ability to transport their drugs across the border was interrupted during COVID-19, but they adapted.  During that time, New York allegedly saw drug traffickers use mail services to send smaller and more frequent loads of highly potent drugs like fentanyl to criminal networks in New York, while also processing fentanyl into pill forms for easier transport.

Additionally, while New York has not been a major meth market in the past, the increase in seizures allegedly shows that cartels continue to push it into the Northeast. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported methamphetamine seizures increased 27% from fiscal year 2019 to 2020 on the Southwest Border.

Aside from an increase in drug trafficking, the DEA New York reports that there was also a significant increase of 137 percent of guns seized as part of our investigations from 2019 to 2020. 

According to Donovan the key to reducing the use of drugs is not only through law enforcement but informing the public of the dangers associated with drug use.

"In addition to enforcement, it is a time for increased public awareness of the dangers of high-potency street drugs causing overdoses and drug-related deaths," Donovan said.

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