Wilkes County is in parts of the U.S. targeted by drug cartels engaged in industrial-scale production of methamphetamine, increasingly with fentanyl added.

A McClatchey news report said federal narcotics agents see Atlanta and Charlotte as the two main meth trafficking hubs on the Eastern seaboard, providing easy access for meth-laden vehicles to the Carolinas.

Some news reports say this large-scale production of meth is the latest wave of the nation’s addiction crisis. Other reports say the latest wave is distinguished by mass-produced meth laced with the synthetic opioid fentanyl, a highly addictive and deadly substance blamed for a nationwide rise in overdose deaths.

Meth makers, distributors or both reportedly add fentanyl to increase addictiveness of meth and boost demand. Drug dealers in Wilkes and elsewhere have been charged with murder for knowingly selling drugs with fentanyl that led to overdose deaths.

Mexican drug cartels switched to using a precursor from China called p2p (phenyl-2-propanone) after Mexico outlawed ephedrine. Small “one pot” meth “labs” in the U.S., which used ephedrine in Sudafed, faded from existence when new laws limited Sudafed purchases and cartels ramped up production using p2p.

Wilkes Sheriff’s Office narcotics investigators say meth’s dominance in Wilkes is due to the rise in meth shipped here from Mexico and sharp drops in meth prices locally.

Journalist and author Sam Quinones researched and wrote about the transition to mass production and distribution of fentanyl and meth and its impact in “The Least of Us,” published in November.

Quinones contends that the highly dangerous psychosis-inducing formulation of this new meth is contributing to a mental health crises and homelessness nationwide.

He traveled across the nation investigating these new threats and discovered how substance addiction is exacerbated by big consumer-product corporations.

Quinones wrote, “In a time when drug traffickers act like corporations and corporations like traffickers, our best defense, perhaps our only defense, lies in bolstering community.”

He said this includes returning to ways of life long-abandoned and working in small, unheralded ways for the betterment of others. Much of “The Least of Us” tells examples of this he found.

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