Drug Traffickers Have a Wuhan Problem

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Truly no industry has been left unscathed in the coronavirus crisis.

Before it saw its first COVID-19 cases, Wuhan, China, was a global hub for ingredients needed to make fentanyl and synthetic opioids. But Wuhan’s chemical factories have shut down over the past few months, leading to shortages that have sent street drug prices soaring as far away as the United States, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Wuhan’s vendors used to ship chemicals worldwide, and “the biggest customers were Mexican drug cartels” that had shifted to fentanyl production after heroin became too expensive, the Times writes. But a lack of ingredients has translated to rising prices for street drugs in the U.S., where cartels’ goods usually end up. Individual fentanyl pills have risen from an average of $5 each to $7, and a pound of methamphetamine has jumped from $1,000 to $1,400 a pound, a spokesperson for the San Diego field division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency said.

Also cutting into the drug trade are border lockdowns and restrictions on international travel. While some officials have said border crackdowns would cut down on trafficking, increased anxiety during the pandemic has likely driven up drug usage, drug treatment experts tell the Times. And it has all led to gang members in Mexico complaining that their cartel bosses have not yet paid them, perhaps translating into March being Mexico’s biggest month for homicides in two years.  Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

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