The coronavirus has even affected the drug trade.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is warning law enforcement of the resurgence of a potentially deadly drug cocktail being produced by methamphetamine makers who are unable to get the chemicals they need to make large batches of the drug.

To make up for the scarcity, meth producers are mixing the painkiller fentanyl into meth batches.

Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton said fentanyl-laced meth was first found in Franklin County by the Multi-County Narcotics and Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit three years ago.

“They’ve seen four or five cases per year pop up,” said Pelton, who added that most of the meth coming into the county comes from the city of St. Louis.

“We find mostly small shake-and-bake setups in the county,” Pelton said. “In these cases, people make enough meth for them and their friends to use and then sell the remainder to buy more supplies to make more.”

The DEA attributes the meth flowing into the U.S. to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel in Mexico. Since supply lines have been limited by COVID-19, U.S. meth makers are producing their own drugs, but nowhere near the quality of the Mexican product. Thus the introduction of fentanyl to give the user a stronger or different type of high, according to the DEA.

According to reports compiled by Franklin County Medical Examiner Kathleen Hargrave, there have been eight deaths in Franklin County so far this year where both fentanyl and methamphetamine were listed as the immediate cause of death.

In 2019, 22 deaths in Franklin County were associated with methamphetamine and a mixture of other drugs, including fentanyl, ethanol, heroin, hydrocodone and quetiapine, a prescription drug used to treat schizophrenia.  

There were 39 meth-related deaths in Franklin County in 2018. Of those deaths, 22 were accidental, seven involved a motor vehicles, five were suicides and one undetermined.

The report also shows methamphetamine was associated with four homicides in Franklin County that year as well.

Methamphetamine deaths have risen to a 10-year high and have multiplied by nearly 20 since 2009 when only two deaths were reported.