(NewsNation) — The proliferation of methamphetamine produced in Mexican labs over the past decade has left law enforcement with its hands full, and a veteran journalist says it’s also a major driver of homelessness across the country.
Sometimes called “Super Meth,” the Drug Enforcement Administration has warned about the highly potent version of the drug since at least 2019, when officials said it was seized along the interstate in Louisiana.
More recently, the drug was cited in a spike in overdose deaths in April 2022 in Tucson, Arizona, and it was prevalent last year in Atlanta. Officials in Philadelphia also reported an increase in the drug.
The easy and cheap product has been a boon to the Mexican drug trade, with authorities in some areas saying it prompted local US labs to halt production.
Sam Quinones, a veteran journalist and author who has written two books about America’s fight against opioids and meth, chronicled the drug’s rise for an essay in The Atlantic in 2021.
Quinoner joined “CUOMO” on Tuesday to explain how meth’s chemical makeup has changed and what it’s doing to people across America.
“What’s happening coming out of Mexico right now is that the Mexican trafficking world is now doing meth in a different way than it has done in the past,” Quinones said. “For the last 10 years, they’ve had to switch to a new kind of precursor ingredient … that’s very easy to make, and … they can get all the chemicals they need to make this drug in quantities such as we have hitherto never seen in this country, and with powers such as we have never seen either.”
Michael Nolan, an addiction counselor in Atlanta, told WSB-TV last year that the way the body and mind react to the ingredient, P2P, short for phenyl-2-propanone, is different than previous iterations of meth. Users are not alerted that they need to take a break from a running heart or energy boost.
“People just take so much of the drug and get so high that it causes rapid physical decline, rapid psychological problems,” Nolan said.
Meth can cause paranoia, hallucinations, and even schizophrenia. The drug is as much as 93% pure, up from 39% in 2008.
Quinoner argues that the drug’s potency and its effects are a “major driver” of homelessness.
“It also keeps people who may be homeless for many, many other reasons on the street, because once you’re on the street, this drug is so prevalent that everyone gradually migrates to using it, and once you start using it , it’s very hard to get off the street,” Quinones said.
Exacerbating the public health crisis is fentanyl, which can be cut into other drugs to increase a trafficker’s bottom line—they can sell a smaller amount but retain the effects a buyer expects. The extremely deadly drug has been responsible for an increase in overdose deaths over the past several years.
The DEA seized a record 50.6 million fentanyl pills in 2022, which combined with the nearly 11,000 pounds of fentanyl powder equaled more than 379 million lethal doses. Authorities say two milligrams is enough to kill someone.
This week, U.S. border officials seized more than 800,000 pills at the Nogales Port of Entry in two days. The Tucson area of operations leads the nation in fentanyl seizures, with more than 18.8 million pills recovered since October.
“Both of these drugs are extraordinarily destructive in their own way and made more so, I say again, because the supply of the drug has really just blanketed the country,” Quinones said. “We have never in our history had one source, which means that in this case the Mexican trafficking world covers the whole country with one, let alone two drugs, but that is the case today.”