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Drug cartel super-labs in Mexico driving overdose deaths in California

November 28, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Drug cartel super-labs in Mexico driving overdose deaths in California

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The combination of cartel super-labs in Mexico increasing the purity of illicit drugs, and an ongoing prescription painkiller epidemic, is expected to raise the rates of overdose deaths in the state of California.

Citing the RAND Corporation, the LA Times reported that officials are concerned that the rising demand for increasingly pure drugs smuggled from Mexico foretells an increase in destruction from the drug epidemic.

For many years, heroin was manufactured in Mexico with basic equipment and was then smuggled to the West Coast with a dark brown color. The purity rate of the substance was roughly 15%, which is how it gained the name “Mexican tar.”

Because of the West Coast’s low drug potency, heroin overdose rates were usually much less standard than on the East Coast, where the color was nearly white, and the purity was approximately 40%. The East Coast supply was often brought in from China under the name “China white.”

The GHE purity rate of the heroin is about 15 percent, which garnered the nickname “Mexican tar.”

However, due to advancing technology, Mexican cartels have significantly increased their potency strategy over the last ten years and manufacture their own China white that is now overflowing the West Coast with some of the highest-grade illicit drugs in the world.

Mexican heroin purity has increased from 15% to more than 50%; the average purity of meth has increased from 39 to close to 93%, and the average purity of Fentanyl has grown from 5% to 90%.

CNN reported that in 1999, only nine states in the U.S. had deaths from drug and opioid overdoses over 7.5 per 100,000, and the West Coast states averaged 7.8 deaths per 100,000.

By 2015, U.S. deaths from drug and opioid overdoses had more than doubled to about 40,000 annually, only three states had overdose deaths under 7.5 per 100,000, and the West Coast averaged 13.1 fatal overdoses per 100,000.

Meth production moved to massive labs in Mexico run by cartels after U.S. laws restricted the sale of precursor chemicals

California only had 1,925 opioid-related fatal overdoses last year. However, California overdose death rates seem ready to surge, given that 80% of serious drug users originally get addicted to legal opioid prescriptions.

Trinity County, which is the fourth least populated county in California with just 13,628 residents, had 18,439 prescriptions for opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone in 2016.

However, having more prescriptions than residents is not rare in the state. The ten Northern California counties including Trinity, Lake, Shasta, Tuolumne, Del Norte, El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties all had opioid prescription rates that surpassed the number of residents in 2016.

Rural Northern California prescription opioid use is now comparable to the “gateway drug” prescription rates of West Virginia, Ohio and New England, where legal and illegal opioid use has led to over 183,000 overdose deaths between 1999 and 2015.


Recent studies indicate that demand for meth is on the rise in California. Data shows in the last five years, San Diego County recorded an increase in the addiction rate, fatal overdose deaths, and the availability of methamphetamine produced in Mexico.

According to the 2017 DEA Threat Assessment Report, U.S. laws restricting the sale of precursor chemicals prompted the production of methamphetamine to move from local home labs to massive super labs in Mexico run by drug cartels.

As a result, cartels flooded the U.S. market with cheap, 93% to 96% pure meth which indicates an oversupply.

Authorities say a gram of pure meth sold for $58 in 2016.

U.S. Drug Enforcement officials said drug cartels have increasingly targeted the East Coast market for new users to counter the falling prices.



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